Originally written by Jemimah Njuki, for Impatient Optimists.
Speaking at the African Green Revolution Forum in Arusha, Tanzania, in September, Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates remarked on the progress that is possible when countries prioritize agricultural development, citing Tanzanian President Kikwete’s commitment to making agriculture development programs a national priority. Melinda also reiterated the importance of being responsive to women who provide a vast amount of the world’s agricultural labor and shared personal stories of women farmers who, using sustainable agriculture methods, have increased their yields, mitigated climatic shocks, and increased their household incomes.
As I listened to Melinda speaking, I was again struck by how sound a partner the foundation is for the CARE Pathways Program. Supported by the Gates Foundation, Pathways is a leading component of CARE’s response to both the challenges and the opportunities facing the world’s smallholder women farmers. As Melinda closed her presentation, acknowledging the importance of partners like CARE, Farm Concern, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), and AGRA to help the Gates Foundation stay connected to the voices of the world’s poor farmers and issuing an ambitious challenge to the attendees, I was inspired by the focus on the importance of women in this vision and am proud to be working alongside her to realize this great potential.
Over the course of the three-day event, I had the privilege of convening the African launch of Pathways to improve the food security and long-term resiliency of 150,000 women smallholder farmers and their families in Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, Mali, Bangladesh and India. Pathways brings together the best of CARE’s capacity across multiple sectors in financial inclusion, illustrated by pioneering work with Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA), market engagement, food security, and empowerment to enable poor women smallholder farmers and their families to engage in equitable agricultural markets at scale.
During the Pathways launch, I explained the program’s aims and discussed how Pathways is setting standards for other CARE programs. For example, the measurement tools developed by CARE for Pathways are already being used in four other CARE programs, drawing on the latest thinking from partners in our global work including the International Food Policy Research Institute, USAID, the Gates Foundation, and CARE’s past experience. Additionally, the event was an opportunity for us to connect individually with a number of Pathways stakeholders from government, NGO, the private sector and beyond.
That sort of engagement is invaluable for us and a key Pathways objective – as Melinda noted in her comments, only by working together as a community can we truly achieve global poverty reduction. I am encouraged by our collective commitment to putting women at the center of those efforts and look forward to reporting out on Pathways from future forums with results from our growing collaborations.
To learn more about CARE’s Pathways program visit www.carepathwaystoempowerment.org.