“Failure to recognise the different rules of men and women in agricultural development is costly because it results in misguided projects and programmes. It is more important to take into account the role women play in agricultural production and to increase concerned efforts to enable women to move beyond production for subsistence and into higher-value market oriented production. Women are crucial in the translation off the products of a vibrant agricultural sector into food and nutritional security for their households. When women have income, substantial evidence indicates that the income is more likely to be spent on food and children’s needs.” Nina Lehmann, Director of Overseas Training Programmes and Research at the ARO, CINACDO.
The training on women’s economic empowerment enters second week today at the Mount Carmel Training Centre, MASHAV in Israel. The training is a collaboration between UN Women East and Southern Africa (UN Women ESARO) and MCTC MASHAV.
Thirty participants, twenty seven women and three men are in attendance, and have come from Ghana, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda.
Yesterday the delegation in training took a learning trip to the Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (CINADCO) where they received lectures on working agricultural practices in Israel. The leading lecturer was Professor Ada Rafeli, Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Agricultural Research Organisation (ARO), Volcani Centre.
The ARO is at the forefront of research and development in agriculture and environmental sustainability, for the benefit of the state of Israel and the world. The ARO team is well known in the world for its ability to integrate advanced agricultural research and break-through innovation. Their vision is excellence in research and development for the promotion of agriculture and the protection of the environment. It is a state of the art institution in which innovative solutions are successfully developed and implemented to meet the world’s most pressing challenges in agriculture and environmental sustainability. Their expertise is in plant sciences, soil, water and environmental sciences, plan protection, postharvest and food sciences, animal science and agricultural engineering. The ARO team is made up of Research Scientists, Research Assistants, Administrative Officers, Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Fellows, all pursuing excellence in agriculture.
The ARO plays a unique role in the national and global architecture of agriculture and food security. Nationally, the institution is the research arm of the Ministry of Agriculture, representing the largest agricultural research body in Israel, and covering over 70% of Israeli Agricultural research.
The institution has a unique array of research projects on a national and international scale for the agricultural sector, and is able to pol resources together in specified areas and cerate centres of excellence for successful collaboration with other similar actors across the globe. Although Israel has faced several challenges as a nation which include the growing population, water shortages, climate change and arable land shortage, the ability of the Ministry of Agriculture to harness efforts with the ARO in pooling resources, theories and practice together for the promotion of agriculture and promotion of the environment has placed Israel as one of the leading giants on the world agricultural market. The identified challenges crated an opportunity for them to turn research and development into innovative solutions, in turn creating climatic diversity, cooperation, proven experience and advanced capabilities for food security and sustainability. Their four prong strategy includes Education and capacity building of current and future generations, Research for continuous development of knowledge and technology, extensions servicers to assimilate agricultural application and a clear focus on farmers to provide them with sustainable solutions for ensuring availability of food, water, energy and favourable climate innovations; and they achieve this through ensuring enhanced water use efficiency, increased food and animal production, ensuring food safety and reducing unnecessary food losses. Indeed Africa has a lot to learn from Israel if the impending threats of food insecurity and the adverse effects of continuous climate change are to be dealt with in a sustainable manner, especially given the unique water and forestry resources we have in our continent.
Opportunities for collaboration with Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture for other nations exist through collaborative research projects with several countries, international courses for international trainees that they offer, especially from developing countries, post-doctoral fellowship programmes and international conferences.
The ARO has two important departments; the Youths Activities Unit and the Gender in Agriculture Department. The youths are valued as tomorrow’s leaders in food security and agricultural sciences and the teaching experience they receive enables the integration of active research scientists and state-of-the-art scientific methodologies for the advancement of education in the agricultural sciences.
Nina Lehmann, the Director of Overseas Training Programmes and Research at the ARO gave a cutting edge presentation on gender issues in agricultural extension. Lehmann rightly noted that women constitute three out of every four people in developing countries that live in rural areas; most women depend entirely on agriculture for their livelihoods; in many parts of the world women are the main farmers or producers, yet their roles largely remain unrecognised. She bemoaned how in many societies women supply most of the labour needed to produce food crops and often control the use or sale of food produce grown on the plots they manage, yet the asymmetries in ownership of, access to, and control of livelihood assets (such as land, water , energy, credit, knowledge and labour) negatively affect women’s food production. Women are less likely to own land and usually enjoy only use rights, mediated through a man relative. Lehmann also noted that the continuous climate change and rising food prices are reminders of the need to focus on food security and agriculture for development, and that accounting for the different roles of women and men and gender equality In access to resources and opportunities is a necessary condition to reduce the share of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger.
Regarding the food security equation, Lehmann rightly noted that although today the world has enough food to feed everyone, an estimated 854 million people worldwide are still undernourished. (FAO 2006). In her arguments, poverty, not food availability is the major driver of food insecurity. Improvements in agricultural productivity are necessary to increase rural household incomes and access to available food but remain insufficient to ensure food security.
Lehmann passionately argued that when it comes to gender issues, we as women cannot afford to address issues in the mainstream and pretend that there is gender equality in our spaces. She insisted that there is need to obtain change of attitude in people’s minds in agriculture, and need to communicate this with truth and honesty. She noted that although there is equality in Israel in general, in practice equality between women and men is far from the truth because high positions in agriculture and extension are still occupied by men and women find it hard to take part in agro-business and other interventions because of gender roles and socialisations.
“Failure to recognise the different rules of men and women is costly because it results in misguided projects and programmes. It is more important to take into account the role women play in agricultural production and to increase concerned efforts to enable women to move beyond production for subsistence and into higher-value market oriented production. Women are crucial in the translation off the products of a vibrant agricultural sector into food and nutritional security for their households. When women have income, substantial evidence indicates that the income is more likely to be spent on food and children’s needs.”
UN Women and the whole UN family have an opportunity to invest funds in the creation of even more collaborative engagements with CINNADO and MASHAV to support African governments, farmers, women Agro-entrepreneurs and the youth to learn best practices from CINNADO, as well as to design a gender mainstreaming programme in agriculture that will benefit women at all levels of society.