Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Addressing the gender deficit in wheat production

Failure to sufficiently consider gender will bring only partial success to SARD-SC’s efforts to transform sub-Saharan Africa’s wheat sector. Without properly considering the role of gender issues in technology design, for instance, the benefits of subsequent technologies may be limited in their abilities to equitably benefit men and women, and may even exacerbate inequalities and the workload of women. 
Considering gender issues in technology dissemination is equally important – this process needs to respond adequately to gender specific limitations, roles, and opportunities to help increase adoption and impact. 
Acknowledging this, SARD-SC (Wheat) recently held a workshop in Sudan – an effort to ensure the initiative gives gender issues the highest priority, and the needs and requirements of women producers are adequately reflected in on-going activities. 
Incorporating gender
Reflecting the initiative’s multi-disciplinary nature, the workshop brought together some 50 participants from 12 countries, including wheat breeders, socio-economists, agronomists, and monitoring and evaluation specialists – in addition to gender experts.    
Discussions focused on opportunities for integrating gender into the projects’ three main components: generating agricultural technologies and innovations; the sustainable dissemination and adoption of agricultural technologies and innovation; and capacity strengthening. 
Other issues were also highlighted: strengthening the role of women in postharvest and processing; access to technologies and innovations in different cultural and social contexts; the limited number of female extension agents – and the difficulty this presents in terms of promoting and disseminating new innovations to women farmers; and land ownership, overwhelmingly dominated by men. 
Solutions to these problems were discussed and potential interventions identified. These included sensitizing male extension agents on the importance of involving women in their knowledge and technology dissemination strategies, and a focus on land management rather than land ownership, which would help create a space for women's inclusion. In many countries across sub-Saharan Africa some areas of land are jointly managed by women and men; while others are managed by men or women exclusively such as kitchen gardens.
The demonstration of wheat varieties and related technologies on joint plots - rather than plots managed exclsuively by men - would therefore benefit both men and women and allow for the dissemination of technologies to both.      
The workshop also provided an opportunity to reflect on the status of women farmers across some of the countries where SARD-SC is working, and included presentations on experiences in SudanNigeriaKenya, and Ethiopia
The presentations provided an update on SARD-SC impacts. In Sudan, where 43 percent of participants are female, women have been successfully incorporated into value-additional activities, for instance. Similar achievements have also been accomplished in Nigeria, where women have initiated small-scale enterprises to produce bread and other baked goods.    
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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

IITA management scores SARD-SC project high for impressive project execution

The IITA Management  has   commended  the SARD-SC project, funded by the African Development  Bank (AfDB),  for its highly  satisfactory  implementation of  all aspects of the  project  and  the meaningful impact  the  commodity value chains  are making in the lives of the targeted project beneficiaries. Dr  Nteranya Sanginga, the Director General   led    the  management team comprising of Mr Kwame Akuffo-Akuto- Deputy Director General of Corporate Services,  Dr. Yiva Hillbur – Deputy Director General of Research for Development  and Mr  Omoshalewa  Sholola – Director of Finance, at  the  recent internal  evaluation of the project  conducted on Tuesday 21,April, 2015.

Dr Sanginga  said  he  was delighted  that  the  project  was on track,  and of  the  achievements   so far  recorded  since its inception in 2012. “I am quite impressed by what you have achieved so far in terms of new varietal commodities, technology disseminated, value addition  to commodities  and  how  they are changing lives, generating income and employment for the  people,” he said.

The  evaluation   was  conducted, according  to  the Director General,  in order to  have an update   of the  progress the SARD-SC  project   was  making  in the areas of  technology dissemination, preparation for the Mid Term Review (MTR), and financial standing of the project and  to discuss possible solutions to any  implementation challenges.  The DG said: “ The  SARD-SC project is  very important, not because   it has  a huge  budget but  in  terms of  the impact it  is designed to have on   the  productivity of  and  income from the value chains of  the  commodities you  work  with and  the lives of the  people.  This is  a  project   which  allows us to  assess  the impact  of  some of our mandate crops –Cassava,  rice, maize and wheat-  and in places it is  executed. It is  one project  that  helps  to  maintain strong IITA relationships with the AFDB.

The  evaluation  exercise started  with Dr. Chrys Akem, Project Coordinator, presenting  an overview  of  the activities and achievements  of the  project  on  cassava, maize, rice and wheat value chains. He went on to highlight their impacts on the livelihoods of many in the project target countries. His presentation also highlighted new varietal development of the 4 target commodities and their dissemination to farmers and farmer groups.   He also   spoke of the project’s  distribution of  better quality  cassava  stems to farmers, improvements in mechanization of  production systems for all the commodities, and infrastructural  development  with the building of cassava processing centers in  DR Congo, Tanzania, Zambia and Sierra Leone.  He pointed out how the establishment of   these processing centers    has led to new products development (confectionery baked with cassava flour) hitherto  unknown in  some of these countries.  Consequently,  it has  fostered  a strong  sense of  community   engagement  for  all in the communities, especially  the women populace. Included in his presentation was  an update on the procurement and  financial status  of the project.

Dr. Akem  intimated the management that  the  project activities have been  aligned with IITA Refreshed  Strategy in the areas of: Increase  food security and  availability;  Increased  profitability  of  food products and Sustainability of  natural resource management. It was not all a rosy picture for the project, as he revealed  some of  the challenges  the Project Management Unit   contends with  in areas of  procurement and financial disbursement, while also pointing out the opportunities that the project has going forward as it takes on its MTR review.

The DG commended Dr. Akem for   “a very comprehensive presentation.” He urged  the  project  team to ensure  they  used  the forth coming MTR as  an opportunity to input  their   recommendations  into the Bank’s  final documents. Thereafter, members of the management team took turns at making comments and asking pertinent questions for clarifications from the project coordinator and members of his team on seemingly grey areas of the presentation.  Mr. Sholola  commended the  team for   effective  financial management and  controls while Mr. Akuffo – Akotto  advised  the project   team  to ensure   the  sustainability of the  structures  built  in  the  SARD-SC  project areas. Dr Hillbur encouraged the project team to continue with strong linkages with other institutional projects.