Strengthening capacity in institutions of higher education in Ethiopia to improve family food security and livelihood through a community service outreach program for women in agriculture.
Food insecurity is a major barrier to development in Ethiopia. While the agriculture sector plays a major role in the national economy, low land productivity and subsequently low income threaten the ability of 85% of Ethiopians to meet their basic human needs of food, shelter and clothing. Women in particular face many challenges that hinder agricultural productivity, such as competing household responsibilities, access to training and resources, and smaller pools of labor. According to FAO, if women had equal access to agricultural resources and services, food security would be greatly improved and societies would grow richer, and not only in economic terms. It is necessary to help women in the agriculture sector improve their economic and administrative productivity at the household level so as to enhance the food security of the family in terms of both diet quantity and quality throughout the year.
The University of Maryland (UMD), Wolkite University (WKU), Debre Berhan University (DBU) and Bahir Dar University (BDU) are implementing a Women in Agriculture program in Ethiopia. The program reflects the success and learnings from University of Maryland’s Women in Agriculture program in Afghanistan. The primary goal of the Women in Agriculture (WIA) Ethiopia program is to improve family food security by building university capacity to deliver training in agriculture and nutrition to limited-resource women.
The core activities of the WIA approach are:
- Formal and informal collaborations among universities, partners, and communities to build capacity, share experience and resources, translate knowledge into practice, and extend agricultural technologies and innovations to communities
- Central demonstration farms with plots that simulate home gardens, which will be used to train female extension workers and female farmers
- Training of female extension workers to facilitate local Farmer Field Schools that demonstrate new methods and skills to female farmers. These will include improved vegetable gardening, small-scale livestock production, preparation of nutritious meals, and marketing of home grown products.
- An emphasis on women to women educational interactions in local communities.
Although every university in Ethiopia is expected to develop a Community Service program, much of the staff in these three universities is young and inexperienced with outreach. At the same time, the communities around them are largely unreached by agricultural programming, and there is little connection between university research and practice in the field. A significant opportunity exists to link the experience of UMD, as a land grant university, with cultural knowledge and local expertise in Ethiopia in order to provide effective, quality outreach in the local communities. Improved research, innovation, and outreach will greatly benefit women in the rural and urban areas who are often unreached by extension services. Simple, affordable technologies that improve productivity while requiring less labor and time allow women to complete their household tasks while engaging in vegetable gardening, animal husbandry, or marketing of agricultural products.
The project is currently being funding through shared expenses of each university. We are soliciting further funding to grow and expand demonstration farms, training of staff and female community leaders, and provision of inputs.
For more information about the WIA Ethiopia Program, please contact us.
Dr. Jim Hanson - Jhanson1@umd.edu
Taryn Devereux - firstname.lastname@example.org
Hiwot Menbere – email@example.com