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Ethiopian women join a Fellowship to promote equitable agri-food systems policies


Eleven Ethiopians are amongst 50 African women selected as Policy Fellows for the second cohort of The Gender Responsive Agriculture Systems Policy (GRASP) Fellowship, an initiative of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The AWARD Policy Fellowship is cultivating a growing pool of African women to catalyze the design and implementation of gender-responsive agricultural policies across Africa.

February 21, 2024: A core pillar of Ethiopia’s economy, agriculture accounts for 40 percent of gross domestic product, 80 percent of exports, and an estimated 75 percent of the country’s workforce. However, recurrent droughts and soil degradation, coupled with low technology uptake, hamper productivity. Further, “despite women’s huge contribution to agricultural activities, agricultural policies have disproportionately benefitted male farmers,” explains Kalkidan Yimer, Gender and Inclusion Advisor for Save the Children International in Ethiopia, and AWARD Policy Fellow.

Transformative policy change is needed to address the challenges smallholders face and close gender gaps in agrifood systems – a key focus of the GRASP Fellowship. For its second phase, the GRASP initiative has targeted six new countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Senegal. The selected applicants have at least 10 years’ experience in agriculture and food system policy at national, regional, or continental levels, with most working in social sciences.

As part of their training, the GRASP Fellows learn how to become effective negotiators, sharpen their skills to design gender-responsive policies, and build collaborative relationships with diverse policy stakeholders. They also receive catalytic funding and access to networks to enable them to lead agricultural policy processes that integrate gender.

Sustainable policies for smallholders

Despite constraints facing Ethiopia’s agriculture sector, the country has the potential to achieve self-sufficiency – through enhanced productivity in cereals and exports of livestock, grains, vegetables, and fruits. For this to be realized, policy must promote sustainable agricultural practices – such as crop rotation and mulching – which would enhance soil quality and productivity. Yesuf Fatie Hairedin, a Researcher and Lecturer at Haramaya University, saw the positive impact of sustainable practices while working at the Ministry of Agriculture. “I could see farmers learning to optimize their farms and improve yields,” she recalls.

Tsion Abate, a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Consultant for the International Livestock Research Institute, has also observed the effects of sustainable agriculture. Whilst working on an initiative to empower women farmers to restore degraded land, “I saw how the program helped them become resilient,” she says. “I learned much about how women can contribute to ecosystem restoration while ensuring land availability.”

However, she notes there is still much to be done to bridge the gender gap: “In Ethiopia, female farmers face difficulties accessing seeds, water, and land… They also don’t have a proper market for their produce.” As an AWARD Policy Fellow, Tsion hopes to learn how to devise good policies that will address such issues. “The GRASP Fellowship is crucial for my career and will help me a lot in empowering women as one of the means to achieve food security.”

Climate action

Rahwa Abrha, Assistant Professor and Researcher at Adigrat University, is keen to develop her knowledge in policy formulation, especially around farmer empowerment and resilience to climate change. With ambitions to build more research in academia, she hopes the GRASP Fellowship “will equip me with the tools to write winning proposals and grants, oversee projects, and measure their success through the lives they change.”

In addition to relevant policies, access to timely agricultural information is key to helping farmers adapt to climate change. Recognizing the importance of this, Tesfanesh Tekehaymanot, Country Program Manager for Farm Radio International, facilitates radio programs that provide women farmers with access to agricultural information. Through the GRASP Fellowship, she hopes to build her agricultural knowledge so she can combine advocacy activities with her expertise in gender and social enterprise. “Female-led households in Ethiopia are neglected in key agricultural activities… At policy level, I want to influence the shift to focus on empowering and recognizing female heads in agriculture decisions,” Tesfanesh explains.

Mentorship for development

As part of the GRASP Fellowship, each Fellow is matched with a senior policy professional as their mentor. Soyome Alemayehu, a Gender and Safeguarding Advisor at SNV Global Development Partner, is keen to learn from her mentor, Dr. Hirut Bekele, who has worked with UN WOMEN and Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture to support the mainstreaming of gender in agriculture. “I want to be part of the team that challenges the gender-biased agriculture policies and strategies, to influence policy makers and leaders and ensure policy implementation is gender-responsive,” Soyome enthuses.

Yesuf believes the program affords “an opportunity to harness my skills whilst inspiring me to take on big projects that can translate into real change for farmers.” She anticipates that, through the mentorship program, she will build her research, policy formulation, and implementation skills – which will aid her in leading more projects, especially those involving women farmers.

 Caption for photo collage

Top: Fatie Yesuf, Debir Belay, Kalkidan Yimer,

Middle: Genet Asgedom, Rahwa Abrha Gebremedhin, Soyome Alemayehu, Tesfanesh Tekehaymanot

Bottom: Tinsaie Birhanu, Tsion Abate, Zemene Ayalew, Zeritu Mola

For more information on the GRASP Fellowship, click here.

You can also contact for more details. 

1 thought on “Ethiopian women join a Fellowship to promote equitable agri-food systems policies”

  1. Okay men including me!

    Now watch how critical projects are supposed to be cleverly planned and done by our naturally qualified women. I hope one of these days our women will peacefully wrestle away the leadership positions in governing that gem of the colored from us men. We, the men, have been in the monopoly of ruling the country for so long we have become too arrogant about it. We start bloody wars for utterly stupid reasons. We jail, maim and kill citizens just because we have gone moody on the any given day. We empty the nation’s coffers belly up. Our women will never do that.

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