Background: Women constitute more than 50% of the agricultural labor force in Africa. Irrespective of this, their involvement in the seed sector is low, with their participation in the formal seed sector standing at 10% in 2012/13. A recent web based discussion on gender integration in seed systems carried out by CORAF/WECARD further revealed that in addition to the low access to credit, women’s access to quality agri-inputs, particularly certified seeds is low. These imbalances constitute a major drawback to the agricultural productivity and livelihood improvement effort in West Africa.
In recognizing the potential of women in the production and use of good quality seed, a sensitization and training workshop on gender mainstreaming, targeted at women champions, was conducted in 2014 for seed sector stakeholder and WASP staff. A total participation was 60 (85% being female) from eight countries working in the seed sector attended. One of the outcomes of this exercise was a roadmap for gender integration into WASP activities. This helped to set the stage and championed the course of women empowerment in seed system. The group was provided with gender mainstreaming tools (an action plan and M&E templates) to facilitate implementation in their respective countries. To this end, a gender action plan is currently being implemented by seven countries, which seeks to i)Promote gender equity in seed focused agricultural research, ii) boost women’s entrepreneurship in the seed sub-sector and iii) Capitalize and disseminate experiences- best practices and lessons learned with female farmer groups. The results of these actions are being tracked through the periodic reporting on gender segregated indicators. Following the development of the action plan, a web-based conference held in 7th April to 3rd May, 2015 resulted in sharing opinions, good practices and lessons among participants from 12 West and Central African countries for improving the potential of women and youth in the sustainable transformation of the seed sector.
Interventions: WASP is consciously and gradually targeting women in its activities. For example, out of the 1,582 (constituting 75% of national experts) high level technical personnel trained in the three WASP Results Areas in the techniques of seed production, agri-business management and the implementation of seed regulations, 20% have been women compared to baseline figure of 10 % at the inception of the program. For the spill-over effects, every 1 person trained, imparted knowledge on 8 more people according to a mini-survey conducted, indicating additional 12,656 technical beneficiaries.
Effects of Interventions: WASP is making news and setting the pace on gender issues in seed systems within the focal countries. The WASP-Mali in partnership with the Malian Research Organization (Comité National de la Recherche Agricole) and the National Seed Trade Association ASEMA has recently been in four national newspapers for promoting gender integration in the Malian seed value chain and to improve the visibility of vulnerable people in the seed sector, particularly women and youth. Nine women groups with an average membership of 25 from the seven target countries benefited from various capacity building activities in seed production, policy, quality control and seed business plan development in
2015. A women group in Mali was accompanied to develop business plans to improve the management of their enterprises. This has also resulted in improved access to credit by women entrepreneurs. In Ghana two women groups have become the focal points for establishing on-farm demonstrations to promote the use of newly developed crop varieties. In response to the Ebola crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, CORAF/WECARD through WASP in collaboration with WAAPP, ECOWAS, World Bank, USAID, AfricaRice, Private Sector and 13 government agencies supplied over 5,000 tons of seeds to these countries.
This is covering 110,000 ha of farmland.
Out of the 150,000 beneficiaries recorded so far, 55% are women and 50% in the youth group.
Women entrepreneurs from Ferme Semencier AINOMA in Niger; FASOKABA in Mali and Techniseeds in Nigeria supplied 219 tons of foundation and certified seeds of rice, cowpea and maize to Liberia and Sierra Leone
Scaling up women participation in seed systems: a perspective: Experiences have shown that women can actively and significantly contribute to the development of the seed sector in West Africa if given the right opportunities. Plans are underway to roll out specific seed production activity mainly targeted at women. This is being developed within the context of the CORAF/WECARD-USAID/WA Cooperative Agreement being amended to provide additional funding with an objective to scale up rice seed production and supply in the region. The WASP team plans to allocate 50% of the new funds to an initiative, Women in Seed System to increase women’s active participation in the seed sector and access to certified seeds to at least 50% which would truly reflect their contribution to agricultural productivity and livelihood improvements.