Scientific Publication

Involving women in research for economic growth through agricultural technologies and practices: ICRISAT?s initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa


Although both men and women play substantial economic roles in the semi-aridtropics of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), in general women?s preponderant role inagricultural activities in the region cannot be ignored. Cultural norms in theregion have long encouraged women to be economically self-reliant andtraditionally give women substantial responsibility for agricultural production intheir own right. Women in the region have relatively high overall labour-forceparticipation rates and the highest average agricultural labour-force participationrates in the world. Thus, women farmers in the region, irrespective of theirethnic group, substantially contribute to national agricultural production and foodsecurity as they are primarily responsible for food crops ? food production as wellas processing. As an agricultural research institute ICRISAT?s initiatives andprograms are technology based; and as gender empowerment is high on ICRISAT?sagenda, most if not all of its projects and programs aim at addressing womenwith new technologies and knowledge to reach higher agricultural outputs. These,combined with other income generating activities are implemented with an aim toincrease women?s income and thus their autonomy and status. In this paper wehave taken some major ICRISAT initiatives in some countries of Western CentralAfrica (Mali, Niger and Nigeria) to look in to the implications for economicgrowth ? for women and their families. Three major initiatives led by ICRISATare reported here: the Groundnut seed project (2003-2007), Tropical Legumes II infirst phase (2008-2010), and the Harnessing Opportunities for ProductivityEnhancement (HOPE) of Sorghum and Millets in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia(2009-2012). All these projects have specific activities targeting women andinvolve technology and crop/seed management practices that were intentionallywomen-centric with the aim of enhancing women?s capacities and skills in thetraditional tasks that they were responsible for, viz. cultivation of crops and seedproduction.Key words :