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TAFS-WCA: Innovation platforms empower women and young people in agricultural value chains

Ahafo Ano South-East Innovation Platform, Ghana. Credit: AfricaRice


Women and young people, who make up a large part of agricultural value chains in Africa, could help to solve some of Africa’s most pressing challenges. Agricultural Innovation Platforms (AIP) constitute the framework enabling women and young people to work together in value chains (from production to marketing), create an environment conducive to dialogue, share experience and skills, and identify obstacles to innovation and collective solutions.

Africa's population will exceed 1.3 billion in 2019. According to forecasts for 2050, Africa's population is set to double. This demographic growth suggests an increase in food demand and challenges to food security in many African countries. However, women and young people are poorly considered in the decision-making processes for access to the means and technical capacities for food production. As a result, much remains to be done to improve their empowerment in African agricultural systems. These challenges represent obstacles to be overcome to improve agri-food systems in Africa. In this context, it is important that efforts are made to encourage the participation of both women and young people in the agricultural sector. This requires also support for the technical and financial capacities of women and young people to ensure the sustained development of their economic activities. Hence the idea of developing much more inclusive approaches. The appropriate approach is AIPs for women and young people. These AIPs are better suited to meeting these gender equality challenges. They are frameworks where local and scientific knowledge is tested and disseminated in local settings. The initiatives led by the CGIAR, and its research centers have for years favored a gender-focused approach to analyzing challenges faced by women and young people in agricultural value chains. These frameworks are set up to build capacity, develop business and market opportunities, and scale up and transfer of technologies (ToT) among women and young people.

 

AIP approach for women and young people in the TAFS-WCA Initiative


As part of the CGIAR initiative entitled Transformation of Agri-Food Systems in West and Central Africa (TAFS-WCA), AfricaRice has been implementing a gender-based approach to strengthen and create AIPs over the past two years. The target audience is local organizations with a combined membership of at least 500 people. In 2023, four AIPs from the districts of Tain, Ahafo Ano South-West and Ahafo Ano South-East were strengthened in Ghana. Since the first half of 2024, one AIP in Nassarawa in Nigeria and two AIPs in Bouaké and Gagnoa in Côte d'Ivoire have been created or strengthened.

AfricaRice has taken action to create or strengthen AIPs for women and young people in several countries. More specifically, AfricaRice held several capacity-building workshops with women and young leaders of farming organizations. The activities carried out within this framework involve: diagnosing value chains; consolidating the governance frameworks of AIPs; promoting business relationships; drawing up work plans; scaling up innovations; and conducting agro-business training. 44 women and young people were trained in Ghana. In Côte d'Ivoire, 16 women and young people in Bouaké and 19 women and young people in Gagnoa were trained. A total of 15 young people and 10 women were trained in Nigeria.

 

Sustainability challenges


Although the gender-based approach to developing AIPs in agriculture is relevant, there are several challenges to making it a sustainable instrument. The first challenge is funding for activities. However, the search for solid partnerships to support action plans is an avenue worth exploring to ensure success of AIPs. During the workshops with member organizations in the different countries, self-financing through internal contributions was identified as a solution for mobilizing internal funds for operation of the AIPs. It is therefore essential to continue, on a certain scale, to build capacity in fundraising and self-financing. The second challenge is the governance of the AIPs. This is a major issue. Operation of the AIPs should promote dialogue and transparency in the management of activities. It is therefore necessary to enable leaders to develop skills in leadership and in managing relationships and organizations to avoid potential conflicts that could affect involvement of members.


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