This Seed Bank in the Arctic Holds More Than 1 Million Seeds

Far up in the Arctic, a seed bank chiseled into a mountain received 60,000 seeds of different crop varieties on Tuesday as part of its mission to safeguard the world’s food supply.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, received the seeds from 35 institutions during the landmark deposit. The seed bank now holds more than 1 million seeds, representing more than 5,000 crop species from 85 different depositors.

The seeds represent widely grown vegetables and herbs, as well as obscure plants and wild varieties, according to the Global Crop Diversity Trust. The Cherokee Nation in the United States deposited squash and beans, the United Kingdom delivered wild oats and barley, and 68 types of rice came from Thailand. The World Vegetable Center handed over seeds for quirky-sounding crops like snake gourd and butterfly pea.

The deposit event was hosted by Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana, both of whom are co-chairs of the United Nations group of sustainable development goals (SDG) advocates.

“This deposit event is especially timely, given that 2020 is the deadline for meeting target 2.5 of SDG 2 on zero hunger, which calls on the international community to safeguard the genetic diversity of crops and livestock,” Solberg said in a statement.

The deposit was the largest to date in terms of the number of institutions involved and is the first since a major update to the facility in 2019, following structural damage when permafrost in the region unexpectedly melted and flooded its entrance.

“The seed vault is a backup,” Cierra Martin, communications officer at the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an organization that supports seed banks, told Global Citizen. “It acts as a safety deposit box, only depositors can take seeds out.”

Organizations that collect seeds around the world can store them in Svalbard for safekeeping.

“It’s a really iconic piece of our work,” Martin said. “But it’s just the tip of the iceberg of a global conservation effort that happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the 1,700 seed banks that tend to biodiversity.”

The Svalbard Seed Bank is a library of global agricultural achievement.

Modern agriculture is the result of 10,000 years of trial and error, cross breeding and trade, research and luck.

For all of the staple crops that are shared across borders and valued in the global marketplace, agriculture is still marked by regional peculiarity. The soil quality, weather conditions, and climate of any given location, combined with the cultural preferences of local communities, means that agriculture takes many different forms.

Seed banks are meant to keep a record of this diversity, safeguard the global food supply, and promote further innovation and collaboration.

And the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is at the forefront of this global effort.

Launched in 2008, the seed bank is located deep in a remote region of the Arctic to prevent outside forces, whether natural or man-made, from harming the seeds.

“Worldwide, there are a lot of different threats to agriculture, from defending against natural disasters to climate change to civil war,” Martin said. “If something happens to your core collection, then you can lose valuable material for good.”

Martin said that a seed bank in Aleppo containing more than 155,000 seed varieties was nearly lost during the Syrian civil war, but its contents were successfully transferred to Svalbard in 2008, allowing the facility to rebound.

She said that the seed bank can help organizations have peace of mind that crop varieties will remain safe even during catastrophic events.

Climate change, in particular, threatens to diminish global agriculture, making it harder to grow certain crops and harder for certain regions to foster food production.

There’s also the more gradual threat of food standardization — of multinational farmers choosing to invest in highly profitable, easy-to-grow crops rather than opting for variety. In the US, for example, farms have lost 93% of their crop diversity over the course of 80 years.

These trends are spurring greater awareness of the importance of seed banks, Martin said.

“The conversation around food is definitely increasing, people are starting to question how their food is produced, whether its sustainable,” she said. “People are talking about farm to fork; we want them to think about seed bank to fork.”

Original article by Joe McCarthy – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Patrick Wittke on Unsplash

To find out more about The Svalbard Seed Bank and ways to get involved, go to their website.

To find out more about the Global Crop Diversity Trust and ways to get involved, go to their website.

Culture Equality

Audiobook Charity Seeks To End Isolation and Make Reading Accessible For Everyone

FOR anyone feeling lonely or isolated, the pleasure and escape of reading a book can be invaluable – especially for children.

But for kids with special educational needs who struggle with reading, trying to get to grips with a story or even a set text on their school curriculum can instead become a source of stress and anxiety.

Listening Books, a small audiobook charity, saw how pupils with learning difficulties were missing out on reading, and decided to launch their Sound Learning programme.

It started in 2002 as a pilot with 25 secondary schools in London, and a further 100 individuals around the country. The results showed how much students with learning difficulties benefited from being able to access the same stories and books as their friends and peers.

The project now records more than 30 educational books and stories a year, all aimed at children aged seven to 16.

Louise Barling is the charity’s library manager. She explained: “Our Sound Learning project is invaluable for those children and young adults who cannot access the written word.

“As well as all the wonderful fiction we buy, we also ensure we provide those books that are set texts and aren’t already available in audio so that the children who need them can have the same opportunities and the same chance at achieving the same grades, and love of literature, as their peers.”

Parents regularly report that audiobooks have had a hugely positive impact on both their children and the wider family.

Catherine’s daughter Sophie was anxious about school and refusing to attend before they started the project. She said: “At the same time we joined Listening Books, we moved to a more supportive school.

“From that moment I think Sophie has listened to Listening Books every day. She loves it. She listens to it every day in the bath and at bedtime and usually falls asleep listening to a story. It has become her oasis of calm.”

And Sophie feels more confident thanks to the project. She said: “Life would be hard without it as I listen to it to get myself to sleep. It helps in English as I know bigger words and what they mean.”

Now Listening Books want to spread the word about Sound Learning and make sure every child who would benefit from listening to an audiobook can take part. To do this they are appealing to anyone with a marketing background to volunteer a few hours in order to help them put in place a marketing campaign to achieve their goal.

If you think you can help go to for more information or find them on social:


Twitter: @ListeningBooks

Instagram: @listeningbooks


Original Article by Jenna Sloan


STEP Project a creative industry open to everyone

Without the privilege of being able to afford an unpaid internship or having a family member in the industry, a job in the arts seems like an impossibility for many young people.

But a new programme is helping dozens of people aged 18-30 to get paid experience and develop the contacts and confidence needed for a career in some of the UK’s top creative industries.

The STEP programme is run by Create Jobs who are part of A New Direction, a non-profit who aim to inspire creativity in children and young people across London.

They teamed up with organisations including the BBC Proms, the Southbank Centre, the London College of Fashion and the V&A Museum to offer paid internships to young people from East London who wanted a job in a creative industry but had no idea of where or how to go about it.

Oliver Benjamin is the director for employment and skills at Create Jobs. He explained: “For many young people, a career in the creative industries can seem out of reach – something only available to those who can afford to go to university and work unpaid internships.

“STEP offers an amazing opportunity to not only give a group of talented young individuals the experience and training they need to start their careers, but also the chance to show how much London’s young creatives have to offer, regardless of their background.”

The STEP programme proved to be a valuable resource for Lauren Joyce-Smith, 24. She is currently completing an internship at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre and Fashion Space Gallery at the London College of Fashion.

Lauren, 24, from Newham said: “Nearing the end of my degree I realised that I wanted to work in the arts but had little idea of how to start my journey into the creative industries, because it can be quite a difficult sector to find an entry point into.

“As a result, I enrolled onto STEP with Create Jobs to help me gain a greater understanding of the range of career paths within the sector and what roles might be best suited to me.”

STEP now want to encourage more arts employers to get involved with the programme and offer young people their first step on the ladder in a career in the arts.

For more information see

Or connect on social:

Twitter: @Create_Jobs

Instagram: @create_jobs


Original Article by Jenna Sloan


Africa’s First Elected Female President Is Training a ‘Wave’ of Women Leaders

DAKAR, March 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Liberia’s trailblazing former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will launch a plan on Sunday to help other African women reach the top in a continent dominated by male heads of state.

Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, became Africa’s first elected female head of state in 2006 and stepped down in 2018 in the war-scarred West African state’s first peaceful democratic transition in seven decades.

“We’re creating this wave of women who are ready to take high-level leadership positions in society, and they’re going to do it unabashedly, they’re going to go for it intentionally,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“After many years of trying to ascend to top leadership positions, I had the experience of how difficult it is for women,” said Johnson Sirleaf, who was the fifth person to win the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership in 2017.

Only about one in four parliament members in sub-Saharan Africa are women, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The Amujae Initiative, which means “we are going up” in Liberian local dialect, is the flagship programme of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Center for Women and Development, which Johnson Sirleaf established after leaving office in 2018.

“I felt I had a commitment to dedicate, after my presidency, my time, effort and resources to promote women in leadership positions,” Johnson Sirleaf said ahead of the launch on International Women’s Day on Sunday.

In its first year, the initiative will provide mentorship to 15 women leaders, with the support of two other female ex-presidents: Malawi’s Joyce Banda and Catherine Samba-Panza of Central African Republic.

The first cohort of participants, who will meet several times a year, include Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the mayor of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, and Malado Kaba, Guinea’s first female finance minister, as well as lawyers and activists.

“Most of my peer-level engagements since I became mayor 20 months or so ago have been international, so without an African focus,” said Aki-Sawyerr, who won an award for her work during the country’s Ebola crisis. “What this opportunity provides is an African lens and a female lens at the same time, so it’s hugely valuable.”

Johnson Sirleaf, a former World Bank and United Nations official, took on the leadership of Liberia at a time when it was seeking to heal deep divisions and rebuild after two civil wars notorious for their brutality and use of child soldiers.

Although she hopes to see more female presidents and parliamentarians, she said she also aims to boost women in the private sector and civil society.

Original article by Nellie Peyton for Thomson Reuters Foundation – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Christina Wocintechchat on Unsplash

To find out more about the The Amujae Initiative and ways to get involved, go to their website.


Feminists From 17 Countries Just Assembled in Austria to Agree on a Landmark Path to Peace

A peacebuilding forum in Vienna on Feb. 19 and 20 brought together diverse groups of women from all over the world to discuss issues that had touched and sometimes devastated their lives.

It was called the Global Women’s Forum for Peace and Humanitarian Action: a space for grassroots activists and peacebuilders — the vast majority of whom were women — to learn from one another and agree on productive steps to increase participation in conflict resolution.

All the evidence suggests that peace deals last longer and extremism is reduced when women are involved in the conflict resolution process.

But between 1992 and 2018, just 13% of peace negotiators, 3% of mediators, and 4% of signatories in major peace processes were women, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. What’s more, when women continue to be excluded from conflict resolution in the aftermath of conflict too, sexual violence is often increased.

The forum was hosted by the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) with the Austrian Development Cooperation and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).

Commitments toward the WPHF worth millions — that would then be awarded in grants to organizations just like those in attendance — were made from Austria, Germany, and the European Union. Meanwhile, private organizations stepped up to invest in the mission, like technology company Dell — which announced a new social platform where the entire community could share information and resources despite being thousands of miles apart.

What’s more, representatives from 70 women-led gender equality organizations across 17 different countries joined with governments, policy experts, and the private sector to come up with the Vienna Declaration 2020 — a plan of action that formalized their key priorities to drive critical momentum for their movement to build peace and respond to crises around the world.

During the forum, activists called it the forum outcome declaration (FOD), and they told Global Citizen it was a crucial component to ensuring the voices of the grassroots organizers are acknowledged at the highest level of policymaking.

“ [With] the implementation of the FOD … for once, our perspective will be heard,” said Margaret Taylor, executive director of the Women Empowerment Network, a group of 45 women-led grassroots organizations in Liberia.

“One or two of my requests from back home that went into our groups will go into the FOD,” she said. “That will be an achievement for my organization.”

Shire en Hussain, a manager at Iraqi organization Sewan, which trains dozens of women in community peacebuilding across the country, added: “This resolution enables them to show women’s rights in all aspects of life — and have to be applied.”

Kristen Bell — of Veronica Mars, Frozen, and The Good Place fame — also joined attendees at the conference and used her platform to help amplify its message.

Bell signed up for the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund in 2014 and became the organization’s Global Advocate in 2018, spending the two days of the forum moderating panels, compèring during commitments, and taking interviews.

“I wanted to become the Global Advocate because I am an empowered woman — and I believe that empowered women should empower other women,” Bell told Global Citizen in Vienna. “I think it’s my duty.”

“I also love the way that the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund is two parts: It’s the UN part, then the civil society organizations — and they come together,” she added. “So the UN has the ability to strategize and get the job done. But it’s nothing without hearing from the grassroots organizers about what they need — and putting the money and the training and the support systems where they need to go.”

Bell said the aspect of the role she enjoys most is listening to the stories of others, and doing whatever she can to lift up those experiences and give them a greater platform.

But she also praised the trailblazing work of the WPHF, which has rallied a number of countries, businesses, and charities to generate more investment into a cause that’s woefully underfunded.

“The commitments that are being made today — the investment in these local grassroots organizations — is profound because people are starting to acknowledge that women can change the tide in their own communities,” Bell said. “We have a long way to go, but this investment is a great first step.”


Original article by James Hitchings-Hales – Source Global Citizen

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

To find out more about the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) and ways to get involved, go to their website.

To find out more about the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP).  and ways to get involved, go to their website.


Lucie’s Pantry

FOR people struggling to make ends meet due to debt, illness or low income work, a trip to the supermarket where you can simply load up a basket seems impossible.

But Lucie’s Pantry, a social supermarket set up by homelessness charity Emmaus, has changed the face of shopping for its customers and the local community.

The store, in South Shields, is open only to its members, who are allowed to join based on their need and geographical distance from the shop.

They pay £2.50 per week, and in return they can choose goods to the value of £15 from a range of foods and household products.

The aim is to make a sustainable and affordable source of food and household essentials for the most vulnerable members of the local community.

Glenn Miller was formerly homeless and is now supported by Emmaus North East. Glenn who runs Lucie’s Pantry one day a week, said: “The social supermarket helps people in poverty, and it gives me satisfaction that I am helping people in need. Emmaus is all about solidarity and the pantry gives us a great chance to put this into action.”

Most of the food and items in the social supermarket are donated by local businesses and community groups, as well as traditional supermarkets like Asda and Morrison’s.

John Harrison is the executive lead for Emmaus North East who run the supermarket. He said: “Emmaus North East took the decision to open Lucie’s Pantry as we saw there was a genuine need in the community. Austerity and poverty in the North East are growing issues, and no one should have to choose between feeding their family, providing a clean home or paying rent.”

Lucie’s Pantry is named after Lucie Coutaz, one of the founding members of the Emmaus movement which was set up in Paris in 1949. They currently need donations of tinned goods, particularly tinned tuna, tinned pies and any tinned or canned meats, for example sausages or corned beef.

To learn more about Lucie’s Pantry go to or follow them on social:

Twitter: @emmausne

Instagram: @emmausne


by Jenna Sloan


Super Bowl Donates 35,000 Pounds of Leftover Food to People in Need

The Super Bowl marks the end of the football season — meaning that after the Super Bowl each year, there’s usually a lot of leftover food in the stadium. And this year, for the first time, volunteers made sure none of it went to waste. More than 35,000 pounds of leftover food from the Super Bowl were saved — and immediately donated to local shelters in Miami.

As reported by ESPN, the team behind the NFL’s sustainability initiative NFL Green worked with catering company Centerplate and food donation organization Food Rescue US to make the donations happen. Food Rescue US has chapters all over the country that rescue food and ensure it is delivered to people in need that day, before it can spoil. Since 2011, Food Rescue US has diverted 50 million pounds of food from landfills by donating it to people who don’t have enough to eat.

Monday morning, after the festivities died down, a group of volunteers from Food Rescue US headed to Hard Rock Stadium and the Miami Beach Convention Center. The volunteers carefully packed up leftover untouched food from the stadium’s concession stands, catering suites, and other Super Bowl LIV events.

On Monday alone, the volunteers were able to collect more than 10,000 pounds of food. All food collected was immediately brought to five shelters in the Miami area in need of food: Miami Rescue Mission, Broward Outreach Center, Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Lotus House Shelter, and Camillus House, according to a press release shared by Food Rescue US.

After a total of three days of packing up food across the stadium, 37 volunteers from Food Rescue US were able to rescue more than 35,000 pounds of food, according to the organization’s Instagram.

“It’s a full volunteer job for everyone. We just want to help people in need,” Food Rescue US Miami director Ellen Bowen told ESPN. “It’s amazing to see how much food there is that otherwise would have been thrown in the trash that can now feed so many people.”

Even though food is biodegradable, it is only biodegradable when in the right conditions — ideally, a compost bin. In a landfill, food is sealed in plastic garbage bags, buried underneath piles of other garbage bags, and then sealed off, creating an anaerobic environment (meaning there is a lack of oxygen). Without oxygen, food does not break down — instead, it will actually release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

In case you need further proof that things do not usually biodegrade in landfills, please refer a 1992 New York Times article that detailed items archaeologist William L. Rathje found in landfills while conducting research. One shocking find was a near-perfect container of guacamole. “Almost as good as new, it sat next to a newspaper apparently thrown out the same day. The date was 1967,” the article read.

While it’s amazing that so much food was diverted from landfills and given to those in need, it’s pretty irresponsible that a one-day event produced more than 35,000 pounds of surplus food. Hopefully when planning next year’s Super Bowl, NFL Green will use data from this year to inform how much food should be prepared.

Original article by Sophie Hirsh Source Green Matters

Photo by Indigo de la Maza on Unsplash

To find out more about Food Rescue US and ways to get involved, go to their website.


The First-Ever Female Pakistani UN Peacekeeping Team Just Won a Medal

A small team of Pakistani women is receiving major recognition for being the first all-female group from the country to carry out a UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

South Kivu Province Governor Theo Ngwabidje presented the Members of the UN’s Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) Female Engagement Team (FET) the UN medal at a ceremony in South Kivu on Friday. The UN medal is awarded for participation in military and police operations that include peacekeeping, humanitarian efforts, and disaster relief.

“This team’s extraordinary endeavors to serve the UN is worthy of praise,” said a MONUSCO press release.

The DRC is currently involved in a civil war, and over 200,000 people have fled South Kivu to escape the conflict between armed groups and government forces. A coalition of militias who identify as “Indigenous” Congolese are fighting a Rwandan cattle-herding group for power and resources. Rebel groups from neighboring countries are also thought to be contributing to the violence.

The team of 15 women stationed in the DRC in June provide a range of resources to the region. They are psychologists, stress counselors, vocational training officers, gender advisors, doctors, nurses, operations officers, information officers, and logistics officers.

Local community members feel more comfortable sharing information with military groups that include women and men, according to the mission.

“Female peacekeepers act as role models in the local environment, inspiring women and girls in often male-dominated societies to push for their own rights and for participation in peace processes,” the UN says.

So far FET has launched many successful projects. The group is actively supporting South Kivu with vocational training and medical outreach, regular trauma support sessions for students, women, and teachers, and psychological workshops for Congolese authorities.

Despite the known benefits of female peacekeepers, and the UN’s efforts to increase female participation, women still make up the minority of these groups. Lieutenant Colonel Rachel Grimes, a senior British army officer who worked for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC in 2014, said she spoke to over 200 female officers and the majority of them said low female participation is often due to women not knowing these opportunities were available.

Another 17 female officers will join FET in early February.

Original article by Leah Rodriguez Source Global Citizen

Photo by Sameer Akhtari on Unsplash

To find out more about the UN Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) and ways to get involved, go to their website.


Nepal’s Next Census to Count LGBTQ People for the First Time

KATHMANDU/NEW DELHI, Feb 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Nepal will count LGBTQ people for the first time in its next census, a move that campaigners on Monday said could help sexual minorities gain better access to education and health plans.

The census — scheduled for June 2021 — will help end stigma and challenges that LGBTQ people face in accessing support and welfare programs, said Dhundi Raj Lamichhane, an official at the Central Bureau of Statistics.

He said people would need to identify themselves and their family members as either “male,” “female,” or “others (sexual/gender community).”

There will be no follow-up options to choose which sexual orientation they identify with in the census — a trial of which will be held in March.

The move will allow planning for social security and other rights, including government quotas, guaranteed to LGBTQ people in the constitution — which was passed in 2015 — Lamichhane told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But gay rights activists voiced concern over the Nepalese government’s plan to combine sexual orientation with gender identity in the survey.

They cited the last census in 2011 when authorities added a “third gender” category for the first time and counted all LGBTQ people under it.

But the number of people willing to identify themselves as a third gender to a census enumerator — or have their family members do so — was too small to be included in the final population count, said Kyle Knight of the Human Rights Watch.

“The government would do well to remember that ‘third gender’ can encompass a range of behavior and identities, and also leave out many people who do not identify with the term.”

The socially conservative Himalayan nation has become increasingly progressive regarding LGBTQ rights since a decade-long Maoist civil war ended in 2006, and a feudal monarchy was abolished two years later.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the government to end discrimination against LGBTQ people and put in place measures to guarantee their equal rights as citizens.

Along with Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh legally recognize transgender people, which often include intersex people and eunuchs as a third gender.

Nepal and India have conducted national surveys with the third gender option.

But despite legislative changes, homosexuality remains taboo in Nepal, where an estimated 900,000 LGBTQ people still face harassment and discrimination, campaigners say.

Sarita K.C., an LGBTQ rights activist who was part of government consultations on the census, said authorities were lumping together sexual orientation and gender identity due to a lack of space on the form and because they wanted “rough data.”

“There are plans for a more specific, detailed survey exclusively for LGBTI (people)…hopefully by 2022. It will give more accurate data,” said Sarita, head of LGBTQ charity Mitini Nepal.

In the 2021 survey, she explained, if someone is LGBTQ, they would have to tick the “others” option irrespective of whether they identified as “male” or “female.”

The exercise will allow LGBTQ people “to benefit from social security plans and quotas set for minority groups” including in civil services, army, and police, she said.

She said while she worried that the results may not reflect the real number of LGBTQ Nepalis due to confusion, identification problems or stigma, she and other activists were planning to raise awareness in the run up to the census.

“We are hoping for the best.”

Original article by Gopal Sharma and Annie Banerji for Thomson Reuters Foundation-  Source Global Citizen

Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

To find out more about the Human Rights Watch and ways to get involved, go to their website.


Women Rise Up to Nurture Climate Scientists in Africa

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jan 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As a child, Kenyan meteorologist Saumu Shaka helped out on her parents’ small farm growing maize and pigeon pea — and learned how the weather can hold food producers hostage.

“Looking back, the yield has declined over the years,” said Shaka, 28, who works with the Kenya Meteorological Department.

A decade ago, her parents would get 25 sacks of maize from their six hectares in Taita Taveta County, southeast of Nairobi.

Today that has dwindled to five bags at most because of erratic rainfall that can also spur crop-destroying pests.

As climate change fuels extreme weather and threatens harvests, Africa needs more scientific expertise to help small-scale farmers adapt, especially women who tend to be hit worst, said Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of Nairobi-based group African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women represent nearly half of farmers in Africa and produce up to 80% of basic food crops.

They are also largely responsible for preparing, storing, and processing food.

But in many cases, the FAO says, they have limited rights, mobility and access to resources, information, and decision-making power, making them more vulnerable and less able to adapt to climate change impacts than men.

“This means women’s continued under-representation in climate change research is no longer acceptable,” said Kamau-Rutenberg, noting that few have opportunities in science education.

AWARD is leading the One Planet Fellowship, a new initiative that will train 630 African and European scientists to use a gender lens to help African smallholders adapt to climate shifts, unusually offering Africans the opportunity to serve as mentors.

Under-investment in African scientific research capacity means “we still don’t even know the specific ways climate change will manifest in Africa,” said Kamau-Rutenberg.

In September, the three-year career development program welcomed its first cohort of 45 fellows from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Mali, Ethiopia, and Burkina Faso — over half of them female.

The aim is to “set an example and dispel the myth that there are no African women scientists ready to step into leadership,” Kamau-Rutenberg added.

AWARD collaborates on the initiative, worth nearly $20 million, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, France’s BNP Paribas Foundation and Agropolis Fondation, the European Union, and Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

‘Firsthand Experience’

As one of the inaugural fellows, Shaka is seeking home-grown solutions to the challenges faced by farmers like her parents, who are battling to grow enough food on a warming planet.

Her research focuses on cost-effective “climate-smart” agribusiness techniques to help young people boost jobs and food security, which she will promote on social media platforms.

African scientists “have firsthand experience and solutions that are practical and applicable to their societal set-ups within their individual countries,” she said.

Women scientists, moreover, are better able to understand the specific challenges in designing community-tailored solutions to help fellow women, said the senior meteorologist.

Droughts and floods, for example, impose a health burden on women, who have to walk long distances in search of water and stay alert to the risk of waterborne diseases, she noted.

Pamela Afokpe, 27, an AWARD fellow from Benin, said “in-continent” experts could relate to the needs of African farmers more easily.

Afokpe, a vegetable breeder with East-West Seed International, is working to get more farmers growing indigenous leafy vegetables in West and Central Africa by helping them access high-yielding varieties resistant to pests and diseases.

Up to now, a limited number of African experts have contributed to the landmark scientific assessments published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which synthesizes research and guides policymakers.

Out of 91 lead authors of the 2018 IPCC special report on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, only eight were from Africa, as were just a tenth of the 783 contributing authors.

South Africa’s Debra Roberts, co-chair of a working group for the IPCC ongoing sixth scientific assessment report and the first female co-chair from Africa, said the panel’s work showed tackling climate change required all of society to respond.

“Women have different lived experiences and views on the problems and solutions,” she said.

“We need to hear those voices if we are to be able to identify context-relevant solutions from the scientific literature. There is no one-size-fits-all,” she added.

Over the IPCC’s three decades of operation, there have only been three female co-chairs, two of them on the current report, she noted.

“We have a long way to go still,” Roberts told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.

Energy Priorities

Women also need to be involved in the practical design of climate solutions, such as expanding off-grid solar power and clean cooking, which can reduce drudgery and minimise health issues linked pollution, said agricultural experts.

As forest loss and climate change make resources scarcer, women have to go longer distances to gather fuel-wood, which puts additional pressure on their time, health, and personal security, said Katrin Glatzel, a research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Dakar, Senegal.

In Mali, a public-private partnership has provided 1.6 million people with more efficient stoves, reducing pollution by half compared to a traditional three-stone fire, she noted.

Glatzel said it was important to include and empower female scientists and farmers in the switch to cleaner, modern energy, so that their concerns could be addressed.

A 2019 survey by charity Practical Action in rural Togo found women prioritized energy for pumping drinking water and processing crops, while men favoured mobile-phone charging and heating water for washing, she noted.

In northern Benin, meanwhile, a solar-powered drip irrigation system means a cooperative of 45 women now fetches water once or twice a week rather than daily, she added.

Bringing women on board with technological innovation for rural energy services is key “to ensure that end products meet their needs and those of their families,” she said.

Original article By Busani Bafana for Thomson Reuters Foundation-  Source Global Citizen

Photo on Unsplash

To find out more about African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and ways to get involved, go to their website.

To find out more about the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and ways to get involved, go to their website.