by Nienke Beintema, Head of the Agricultural Science & Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative, IFPRI
While the number of female researchers employed in the agricultural research and development (R&D) in Africa south of the Sahara (SSA) has increased substantially in recent years, women are still significantly underrepresented in many countries.
This is one of the findings of a recently released report, Taking Stock of National Agricultural R&D Capacity in Africa south of the Sahara, produced by IFPRI’s Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI), which summarizes recent progress in the development of the region’s national agricultural research systems.
In a 2011 sample of 37 SSA countries, only 22 percent of all agricultural researchers were female (see figure). In general, Southern African countries employed comparatively more female researchers, whereas women’s representation in agricultural research in West Africa, as well as in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and DR Congo, was particularly low (10 percent or less).
As of 2011, there was little difference in the shares of female researchers by qualification level. Notably, however, only 13 percent of agricultural researchers in their 50s and 60s were female, whereas a quarter of those aged 40 years or younger were female, which could indicate a shift toward greater gender balance over time.
Although female involvement in agricultural R&D has grown, both in absolute and relative terms, most high-level research and management positions are still held by men. Consequently, women have less influence in policy- and decisionmaking processes.
African women face unique challenges in pursuing careers in agricultural research, but a number of countries have instituted various policies and reforms to promote gender equality, and evidence indicates that research agencies are taking steps to recruit more female researchers. These efforts all represent positive progress, although significant scope for further improvement remains.
The new ASTI report highlights additional human resource and investments challenges to national agricultural research systems as well as provides various successful policy changes already adopted in some SSA countries to address these challenges and which can offer valuable lessons for others.