The bank for a changing world

One Planet Fellowship—When women inspire the Bill & Melinda Gates and BNP Paribas Foundations

  • 13.03.2019

Africa is a continent that is especially vulnerable to climate change, with its agriculture and food supply particularly at risk. The consequences of this will impact women the most, as they form the backbone of the continent’s agricultural sector and produce as much as 80% of its food. In addition, Africa lacks the robust scientific data needed for governments and local stakeholders to develop adaptive measures.

In order to support the local scientific community and its research on climate change, the BNP Paribas Foundation partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to support and co-fund the One Planet Fellowship which was launched in December 2017. Managed by African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) and Agropolis Foundation, the One Planet Fellowship takes a gender-based approach to climate change adaptation and agriculture, in order to reflect the crucial role played by women in this area. 

Climate change—a major threat to agriculture and food production in Africa

Africa’s vulnerability to climate change risks prolonged periods of drought and lower crop yields. To make matters worse, the continent’s population has a low capacity to adapt, due to poverty and limited access to capital, infrastructure and technology. 

Across the continent, agriculture is likely to become the sector most impacted by global warming. In fact, climate change is projected to cut African crop yields in half by 2020. As a result, crop net revenues could drop by 90% by 2100, with small-scale farmers facing the toughest consequences. By 2050, African agricultural production may cover only 13% of the continent’s food needs. In addition, a global temperature rise of +1.9°C by 2050 could increase the underfed population in Africa by 95%. 

AWARD Fellow_Mary Oyunga visits Farmer Josephine Amonge at her farm in Ndori _Siaya County Kenya - ©AWARD. - Credits: AWARD

Women—the backbone of African agriculture 

Within the context of these dire projections, women stand to bear the biggest impact of climate change, due to the critical role they play in the continent’s farming practices. Indeed, agriculture is the largest employer of women in Africa, with 62% of economically active women working in agriculture across the continent. That figure rises to over 90% in countries like Rwanda, Malawi and Burkina Faso.

However, gender inequality hampers their potential. This is illustrated by the rural wage gap between men and women in Africa, which estimates place anywhere between 15-60%. But this discrepancy does not just harm women, it also limits the performance of the entire continent—the UN estimates that gender inequality costs Africa $95 billion every year. 

On a more promising note, the connection between women and farming also means that agriculture is the key to achieving gender equality in Africa. By leveraging agricultural growth, the continent can drive a new wave of inclusive prosperity for both women and men. Indeed, experts argue that systematically incorporating gender issues into agricultural research, development and extension systems will contribute significantly to meeting the food needs of Africa’s growing population, while also ensuring that productivity gains in food systems translate to improved welfare for the continent’s most destitute groups.

One Planet Fellowship—a program funded by the BNP Paribas and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, and managed by AWARD and Agropolis Foundation

Inspired by the AWARD Fellowship model, the One Planet Fellowship is a $15 million, five-year program dedicated to Building a robust pipeline of climate science leaders in Africa.

The Fellowship will fund 120 men and women African researchers and scientists for a two-year career-development fellowship, with the aim of nurturing their expertise in the agricultural sciences. The 120 researchers are selected based on the quality of their research projects, through a process that places special emphasis on climate change adaptation. In this way, the program ensures a growing cohort of capable, confident and influential African climate scientists who can lead critical advances and innovations to help smallholders cope with climate change.

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A process inspired by the AWARD Fellowship model 

AWARD places special emphasis on training capable, confident and influential African women scientists. Based on the organization’s unique fellowship model, the One Planet Fellowship program sets out to strengthen the leadership skills of emerging climate scientists by nurturing:
  • Self-awareness, confidence and assertiveness.
  • Motivation to lead and perform.
  • Gender-responsive research.

AWARD invests in female African scientists, agricultural research institutions and agribusinesses to deliver gender-responsive agricultural research and development. AWARD’s focus on gender-responsive agricultural research means that the One Planet Laureates will also gain the skills necessary to conduct their research in a way that produces relevant solutions that respond to the needs and priorities of a diversity of men and women. 

Building a network of European and African partners  

The One Planet Fellowship aims to build a vibrant, highly connected and intergenerationalnetwork of African and European scientists equipped to lead research on climate change on Africa’s agriculture.

The scientists will also focus on the multi-dimensional impacts of climate change on and food systems while also identifying and developing innovative solutions to effectively respond to the challenges, needs, and priorities of diverse population groups across the continent.

To promote this transcontinental network, the African scientists chosen to take part in the program receive joint mentoring from a senior scientist working in Africa and one based in Europe. In addition, the program laureates also receive an opportunity to conduct their research at a premier European research laboratory. In turn, the One Planet laureates will then mentor two emerging young researchers, one from an African institution and one from Europe. 

Through these efforts, the Fellowship aims to support a total of 600 African and European researchers working on the most urgent issues facing agriculture in Africa.

Photos ©AWARD - ©ktianngoen0128

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