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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

I weep for my nation Uganda: Our Education system is failing us.

I only heard, learned and studied about them in high school back in Africa; The Atlantic Ocean, the snow, the Hudson bay, Appalachians …….. e.t.c and now  am right here seeing them with my very own eyes and having the actual picture of what I only had an opportunity, to see in text books and on Television some years ago. Yes, I am writing this from Nova Scotia Canada.
When I left Uganda on 1st January 2011 for North America, in pursuit of a Masters’ degree, all I could think about was, what lay ahead of me and how I would cope with the new education system which I believed was so different from that in Africa, specifically Uganda.

Just one week and a half into the semester at St. Mary’s University Halifax, http://www.smu.ca/ My thoughts are turning into reality. The education system, the style of lecturing and the reading culture are not only different from those in Uganda but far way advanced.  On the first day of my class, I missed two lectures because I was not up to speed. I was still figuring out how to register myself online for the courses I was supposed to take, which I did not complete in time to attend both lectures. When I finally got registered and started attending my very first class (Human and Computer interaction), I was impressed by the method of teaching, it was so inclusive, participatory and practical (though with gender issues in terms of students taking on the course). It even involved live streaming of vidoes on Youtube  about the importance of  observing human behavior when planning to design a system . See highlight of Vidoes 

Lots of interesting sessions followed.
But the only thing that came to my mind was Uganda’s education system. It’s true that it  experienced a major expansion when it started implementing the Universal Primary Education programme in 1997. Enrollment figures increased enormously and there are now about 8 million children enrolled in Primary schools but quality didn’t improve at the same speed. Current characteristics of education in Uganda include high absenteeism rates for pupils and teachers (up to 20%), low completion rate (54%) especially for girls, prevalent violence against children in schools and lack of sanitation (1 latrine for 66 pupils)-UNICEF, Kampala. I just had to lament to myself.
Until now, even as I write this short blog, I can’t help but weep for a nation full of young energetic and brilliant citizens whose energy is wasted as a result of unemployment that stems from the poor education system (FYI, I have been through the whole system) and who are being slowly but surely weakened and killed by the AIDS epidemic.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda: 1.2 million HIV-positive adults, 150,000 HIV-positive children, 120,000 new infections per year, 64,000 deaths per year, 6-7% of adults HIV-positive, 350,000 in need of antiretroviral drugs and 1.2 million Orphans due to AIDS”
As a young woman, I will devote my time and energy to try and help fellow young people in my country change the future of our nation. FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY!

Information Poverty: A barrier to Agricultural Productivity in Rural areas.

The agricultural sector is one of the most under exploited in many African Countries today. In Uganda alone, about 80% of the now approximately 32 million people http://data.worldbank.org/country/uganda  are rural based and depend almost entirely on Agriculture at various Levels of livelihood.
Information poverty is the absolute lack of accurate and timely Agricultural information to effect positive change in this case in the Agriculture Sector. Much as it is believed by many, that access to timely information by rural communities cannot only increase agricultural productivity but enhance social and economic development, many farmers in rural areas lack even the basic access to information.
Can ICTs bridge the Information Poverty gap?
Technologies affects all aspects of life be it social, economic or political. It’s therefore important to understand the role technology can play in Agriculture; to increase productivity, reduce costs as well as increase on the customer base. ICTs have been used as enablers in other sectors like Education, Entrepreneurship, health and sports but their adoption, usage and application in Agriculture is low despite the big role agriculture plays in society.
The inability to access accurate and timely information by rural farmers on climate change, market prices and best practices has negatively affected the final out put in terms of yields and profits. ICTs can play a big role is solving the problem of information poverty among rural farmers. The mobile phone whose penetration into Africa alone is over 500M http://ht.ly/37Ks7 a hand tool that can be used for several purposes because of its ability to combine text, Audio and Video functionality in addition to its ability to cut across literacy levels(Farmers are able to communicate in their local languages). The community radios, Telecenters/Information resource centre and print Media like farmer Magazines are all ICTs that farmers can use to access agricultural information.

MobileActive Video: Mobile phones in rural development & agriculture

Way Forward

Despite a number of challenges faced by the Agricultural sector, there are some things to consider inorder to bridge the Agricultural divide. Some of them are;
·          -Actively involving the Youth in Agricultural initiatives because being the biggest users of ICTs, their potential can be tapped into to divert their skills to Agriculture. They need to start looking at Agriculture as a source of income(Agrobusiness) and not as a dirty job like it has been potryed to them.
·         The agricultural projects must be very Gender sensitive right from the start. In most African Counties, women dominate in agricultural production yet the men do lots of marketing. It’s important to let each Gender play a role right from production to marketing in order to achieve Agricultural food security.
·         Agriculturalists need to work very closely with Journalists. Media plays a very big role in changing the perception people have towards agriculture as a dirty job and a sector of failures. Since journalists set the news agenda, they have to be well informed such that they can document agricultural success stories and stop focusing on only agricultural disasters like famine and floods.
·         Take advantage of New and social media to educate, inform, motivate and involve a number of different stakeholders about the role agriculture can play in economic development of society.

Technology, Gender and Violence!! Break the Silence.

As I anxiously wait to join the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence(GBV) from 25 November 2010 to 10 December 2010 whose regional theme is “Engaging Faith-based Communities to Prevent Violence against Women” focusing on how our faiths and faith-based communities can (and should!) get involved in preventing violence against women, I can’t help think of the millions of mothers, sisters, Aunties and nieces who have been violated yet still remain helpless and silent despite the growing opportunities and improved technology which can help them break the silence through sharing and reporting.

According to a Ugandan psychologist Paul Nyende violence ranges from Physical, Emotional, Economic and financial. In physical abuse, usually physical force against someone is used meaning that sexual abuse fits in this. A signs of this, is being viewed as a sex object or property rather than a human being. Whereas in emotional abuse, the abuser attacks the victim’s spirit by eating away their feelings of self-worth and independence making the victim feel trapped and worthless. Signs of emotional abuse are humiliation, being yelled at and teased in a hurtful way both privately and publicly, Verbal insults and calling you names against your will as well as using threats.

The financial abuse which is usually ignored by many, involves the abuser controlling their victim financially; the signs include monitoring one’s account for every penny spent, not letting you get on with your career or sabotaging you at your place of work.
MAJOR TACTICS USED BY ABUSERS.
Dominance: This is used so that the abuser is in charge of the relationship.

Humiliation: This is to make the Victim feel bad about him/herself.

Isolation: This is to increase the victim’s dependence on the abuser.

Threats: To scare the victim into staying with the abuser

Intimidation: To make the victim submit to the abuser’s will, this involved denial and placing blame to push into excusing the inexcusable.

AND WHO BREAKS THE SILENCE?
With the emergence of New Media and Technology, it is now evident that the power of the media is in the hands of the people. The only issue is how this power is being used to create positive social change in regard to combating Gender Based Violence. Web 2.0 technologies have given people the power of real time reporting, networking and receiving timely information, but how many people have the technical know-how of using them? Then the mobile phones whose subscription in Africa alone has surpassed five million http://ht.ly/37Ks7 and powerful penetration to the rural communities and can be used to combat gender based violence, How many people use up to 50% of the mobile phone application/functionality? How many are aware that it combines text, video and Audio?

Many people have mentioned to me that you get more knowledge by asking many questions. I am desperate to learn from you the readers of this article.
I conclude by quoting one man from Eastern Uganda who once said that: “For every bullet that hits a man during war kills a Woman’s Child”
Gender based violence is real and it affects all of us, some directly and others indirectly. But the good news is that it’s within our power to end it.

And who said that Gender does not matter in social Change?

“We are tired of hearing about Gender, What’s wrong with you Women?”

These are some of the words that many people echo when you mention GENDER. As if gender means WOMEN!

As I attend the Digital Natives: My bubbles, My space and My Voice workshop at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, I cannot stop thinking about yesterday’s morning session on “Keyword paring”. This was an exercise that required each participant to describe their practices, policies and ideologies in one word which would be paired up with another participant’s one word description to form a topic of discussion.
Thinking about what describes me best and my ideologies was very easy, however, I had one problem; I came up with two words instead of the required one word. The words were GENDER + COMMUNITY
The first participant I attracted was Mr. James Mlambo the founder of Cyber Gateway in Zimbabwe who had the word INCLUSION, he was interested in pairing it up with my word COMMUNITY. We both agreed on having the words merged to come up with “COMMUNITY INCLUSION”. Our focus of discussion, in relation to our subject then centered on the marginalized and disadvantaged members of the community who are many, a times ignored in projects meant to benefit communities. These are; Youth, Children and Women. It was surprising that, this group of people make up the biggest percentage of many communities yet they are the most marginalized. We asked ourselves how to make sure that there is total inclusion and participation from all the members of the community without discrimination based on age, gender or political ideologies. And the answer was in linking technology to development.
Next was a participant with the word EQUALITY, Manal Hassan from the Arab Techie Network wanted her word EQUALITY merged with My GENDER to make GENDER EQUALITY. To many people, this does not sound new but as a team we looked at it from a technology perspective. We realized that Gender influences the dynamics of any society and that there is a digital divide when it comes to technology. One Gender (Male) is more dominant over another Gender (Female) in terms of Access, use and application of Technology. Of course several factors like perception, negative cultural practices and social cultural effects are responsible for this but our interest was in directing technology for younger generations not to use it just for the sake of it but rather relating it to development.
And finally Mr. Piadamoyo Muzulu from Padare/Men’s forum on Gender and the commercial Farmers Union(CFU) came in with REVOLUTIONARY and wanted it merged with my GENDER. We focused on ‘Deconstructing Masculinity’ and why the work of women as a gender is not quantified. According to him, the only way to empower women is through liberating their minds. The underlying questions is:
Does gender really matter when creating social change?
For more about Digital Natives