Why consider Women in Agriculture Education?

I was recently in Maputo, Mozambique
attending the 4th Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) biennial conference. RUFORUM is a
consortium of 42 Universities across Africa and a platform for catalyzing
change is African Universities.  I had
gone for a consultancy to train young social reporters and journalism students in Mozambique who had been tasked
to cover the proceedings of the event in real time via social media.  I have in the past conducted similar
trainings but this was a special one given the nature of the trainees. It was a
mixture of English, French and Portuguese speakers. After successfully
completing my trainings, I had an opportunity of attending some of the plenary
sessions as I monitored my ‘students’ do their work.
Conducting a training for social reporters and journalism students.
It was not a surprise that one of those
sessions that I chose to attend, focused on the role of women in Agriculture
and why they should not be ignored in institutions of higher
learning and specifically Agricultural education.
In her opening remarks, Her Excellence Dhlamini Nkosazana Zuma
the chairperson of the African Union commission mentioned that transforming
Agriculture in Africa required innovative scientific research, educational and
training approaches.  She added that
transformation demands a bold vision backed by bold actions.  Ms. Dhlamini said that Africans from all walks
of life must contribute to a prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth, so
that Africa can take its rightful place in the world. By 2025, all young
persons under 25 in the world will be African. They must therefore be
intellectually empowered with relevant skills especially in science and technology.
she added. On the role of women in Africa’s
development, Ms. Dhlamini had this to say 

“Women not only make up half of Africa’s population but also produce the other half, they form 70% of African workforce.
We must empower them. We must have deliberate strategies to ensure girls’ access
to higher education and more women in the academia”

She challenged participants when she
mentioned that no country has ever developed on primary education alone and
emphasized the value and need to focus on Higher education. In her opinion,
Africa needs to have its own agenda and pursue it. “We do not need the UN to tell us to take our children to school”
she said.
H.E Dhlamini Zuma Chairperson AU commission
More often than not, we do what people
give us money for and not what we are supposed to do as Africans. No country
has ever developed only on donor money,we must put in a lot of our resources. 
We must look at new Technologies like
elearning to give us more access to education. Universities must be innovative
enough to adopt to new technologies and they must have both physical and
virtual learning spaces to give skills to more students. We should not miss the
opportunity that technology offers. Innovators must innovate to replace the
hand held hoe for Women.  She concluded.
Women remain invisible, in spite of their presence.

Graca Machel the keynote speaker of this
conference started her address with a reminder that every one of us had to have a responsibility of how we change Africa.  It
should no longer be about “Reducing the percentage of people dying of hunger”
but rather totally eradicating it from Africa. Graca firmly asserted.
We get comfortable talking about numbers
but what impact do we have on the lives of the people we represent? 43% of
African Children are stunted, that means that they can never attain their intellectual
capacity. To Ms. Graca, poverty for African is no longer the issue of hunger
but rather the intellectual nourishment.
As a way of walking the talk, Ms. Graca,
with the support of African Development bank has established an African women
Network focusing on Women in Finance with a plan to establish networks of Women in Agriculture especially woman in Business. She was concerned that women are not well
represented in Agricultural services yet it is important to improve women’s representation
in policy decision making processes. There is very little attention given to
the roles women play in agriculture and their specific needs and priorities. To
realize the potential of Agriculture as a source of livelihood for many
Africans, We must recognize the roles women can play in Agriculture.
Why
Women?
The AfricanDevelopment Bank estimates that 90 per
cent of Africa’s food is produced by women in spite of the fact that few women
hold titles to the land they work. Because of this, rural women’s contribution
to Africa’s agriculture is important for the persistence and success of their
families, communities and local and national economies, and to poverty
reduction and sustainable development.

Ms. Graca Machel gave a keynote address & focused on
the role of women in Africa

According to a research conducted by
RUFORUM in 2010, Women play a vital role in Agriculture yet are poorly
represented in higher education with 28% of student in universities Agriculture
programs, less than a quarter in agriculture faculties and 20% women
researchers.
An MOU between RUFORUM and AWARD was signed to encourage Women’s
Participation in Agricultural Research and Higher Education

The big question remains, what must be done to
address the gender gaps and concerns in Agriculture and science in Africa?

For more details about this conference, please visit:

Flickr to see some of the pictures 
Blogs: Over 43 were written by the social reporters