Message of the Chair of the Governing Board on the Occasion of International Women’s Day 2021

Promoting Gender Equality in responding to the impacts of Covid-19 on Agricultural R&D: CORAF’s commitment!

Like the international community, CORAF wishes to align with the tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day, as the issues related to women empowerment, necessary for the emergence of sustainable development, are still important.

CORAF celebrates women in all their diversity, pays tribute to women particularly those who work in the agricultural research and development sector, and those who work in all agricultural value chains to feed the region. 

This commemorative day offers CORAF the pleasant opportunity to take stock of the implementation of its Gender Policy, which has recorded significant results, and testifies of CORAF’s contribution to the emergence of a gender-sensitive agricultural research and development sector, with a view to achieving the region’s sustainable food and nutritional security objectives.

CORAF’s gender policy implementation adopted the gender institutionalization approach, which enabled the institution to promote gender equality not only in its projects and programs, but also in its procedures, and in its governance system:

  • CORAF programs and projects such as WAAPP (West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme), MDTF (Multi-donor Trust Fund), C4R4D (Developing capacities for agricultural research for development in sub-Saharan Africa): from the offer to the requested training, the Post-Ebola Initiative for Agricultural Sector Reconstruction, and ILWAC (Integrated Land and Water Management for Adaptation to Vulnerability and Climate Change), recorded over 40% women beneficiaries, in terms of access to technologies and innovations, extension services, agricultural infrastructure and agricultural training; 30% of women have benefited from PhD and Master’s degree scholarships in agricultural education sciences in the implementation of CORAF projects, thus helping to bridge gender inequalities in access to agricultural science education; 
  • CORAF managed to make the inclusion of gender equality in its governance system very effective. For the first time in its history, (i) a woman was elected as Chair of the Governing Board; (ii) the Scientific and Technical Committee, which had only one woman in 2012, now records equality, with 6 senior women researchers, out of 12 members; CORAF staff, meanwhile, went from 33% of women in 2012 to 38% women in 2021.

By facilitating the development and dissemination of gender-sensitive agricultural technologies and innovations, climate and nutrition, CORAF has succeeded in transforming the lives of thousands of women beneficiaries of its projects and programs.

This year’s theme “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” calls for reflection on the role and place of women in responding to the impacts of Covid-19 on sustainable development.  

According to UN Women, the pandemic will push more than 47 million women and girls below the poverty line, including 59% in sub-Saharan Africa, thus jeopardizing the progress made over decades to eradicate extreme poverty among women.

With the lockdown decreed in countries, Covid-19 has exacerbated gender inequalities and the vulnerability of women, with domestic violence inflicted by the spouse, loss of jobs and income and the impact on food households, as well as lack of access to health care related to reproductive health. In addition, school closures have led to the growth of unwanted teenage pregnancies, and increased the number of early marriages.  

Like other development sectors, Covid-19 has had major impacts on agricultural research and development in the region. Mitigation measures have affected agricultural activities among both men and women, especially among disadvantaged groups of women and youth who play a key role in all agricultural value chains. The pandemic continues to impact the ability of women researchers to conduct agricultural research activities in the field and restricts the collection of primary data from surveys and fieldwork. 

Covid-19 has therefore affected the food supply chain, further weakened household food insecurity and compromised the sustainable socio-economic empowerment of women in agriculture.

CORAF remains persuaded that responses to the impacts of Covid-19 on food systems will necessarily involve gender-sensitive response actions, taking into account the specific needs and expectations of men and women in the Agricultural Research and Development sector.

CORAF’s mission, which aims to contribute to a sustainable reduction of poverty and food insecurity in the sub-region with an improvement of the agricultural research system, will necessarily involve inclusive actions aimed at strengthening women’s resilience to the impacts of Covid-19 on food systems, by facilitating their access to gender-sensitive agricultural technologies and innovations, climate and nutrition; by strengthening women’s leadership capacities in agricultural research, as well as in all agricultural value chains that have enormous potential in terms of job creation, and generation of wealth for the sustainable empowerment of women. 

To respond to the challenges, and faithful to its gender policy, CORAF intends to take an active part in regional responses to the impacts of Covid-19 on food systems, by involving its “Gender, Youth and Social Equity” Unit, to facilitate the effective consideration of gender and social inclusion dimensions in all policies, programs and projects in response to the impacts of the pandemic on food systems in the region.