Women are the foundation for change in rural Ethiopia

January 9, 2018 | CIMMYT Feature

The idea that “Educating women/girls is nothing but a loss,” used to be a common sentiment amongst members of rural Ethiopian communities where the Nutritious Maize for Ethiopia (NuME) project works. Now one is more likely to hear “Women are the foundation for change.”

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)-led NuME project is reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia by increasing the country’s capacity to feed itself. The project is improving household food and nutritional security, especially for young children and women, through shifting gender norms and the adoption of Quality Protein Maize (QPM).

QPM refers to a type of maize biofortified with two essential amino acids through traditional breeding to improve the inadequacy of protein quality of the conventional maize grown widely by farmers. Consumption of QPM instead of conventional maize leads to increase in the rate of growth in infants and young children with mild to moderate undernutrition from populations in which maize is the major staple food.

According to the World Bank, women contribute 40-60 percent of the labor in agricultural production in Ethiopia and play an important role in income generation, as well as unpaid household tasks. However, many women face severely restricted access to resources and services and lack control over income, greatly hindering their participation in and benefit from new innovations.

Few programs have specifically considered gender relations when implementing new initiatives in communities, however, when NuME found lower participation of women in the community-based promotion and dissemination of QPM, adapted community conversations were launched in two selected project woredas, or districts – Shebedino and Meskan – for a nine-month pilot in an attempt to raise women’s role in the project.

Community conversation (CC) is a facilitated approach based on the principle that communities have the capacity to identify their societal, economic and political challenges; set priorities; mobilize human, physical and financial resources; plan for action and address their challenges sustainably. It focuses on people’s strengths, resources and how they relate to challenges or problems communities face.

The people benefiting from a CC-driven project set priorities and create a plan of action to mobilize resources to address their challenges sustainably. This helps communities develop a sense of ownership, use local resources and take responsibility to bring about sustainable changes.

Because this approach involves the entire community, it also includes traditionally marginalized groups like women and youth.

When NuME first started community conversations, seating was very rigid due to cultural and religious traditions, but as the sessions continue paving the way for more community awareness on issues around gender norms and stereotypes, the seating has become much more mixed.

A facilitator from Shebedino woreda said, “Participants can’t wait for the bi-monthly conversations and they never want to miss them. These exchanges have helped men and women to get together and discuss their concerns, which was not a common practice before.”

“Women have begun raising their voices during community conversation meetings, while they used to be too shy and afraid to speak and very much reserved about sharing their ideas in public,” a female participant from Meskan woreda reported.

Community conversation participants have started changing the traditional gender stereotypes.

Through debate and the sharing of opinions, and more active participation from women, community conversations have educated participants on gender inequality, its prevalence and harm and have allowed men and women community members to exchange ideas about nutrition more effectively.

The NuME project will continue into 2019. Read more about how CIMMYT is working to equally boost the livelihoods of women, youth and men here.

The NuME Project is funded by Global Affairs Canada with major implementing partners the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR), the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA)/Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) and Farm Radio International (FRI).

Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on CIMMYT and was retrieved on 01/18/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at info@indeseem.org.

‘Bad-ass business women’ bring solar empowerment to Nepal

By Lucy EJ Woods | Published on 15/06/2017 | 4:57 PM |

NGO that helps women overcome cultural taboos and start their own clean energy businesses to be awarded prize in London ceremony

“People talk here when a woman talks to men. They say things like how a woman should not leave the house,” says Runa Jha, a solar entrepreneur in Janakpur, eastern Nepal. “But I don’t care.”

A widow, Jha lives in one room with her three teenage children. In rural Nepal, widows are treated as social outcasts. They are seen as predatory, potential husband-stealers and their interactions with men are frowned upon.

“You should do what you want,” says Jha, who received training from Empower Generation – an NGO that on Thursday will be awarded a £20,000 Ashden award for promoting the role of women and girls in the clean energy sector.

Another Empower-trained solar entrepreneur, Lalita Choudhary, also faced cultural barriers. “Individuals are going to say all sorts of things” about business women in rural Nepal, she says. Choudhary lives not too far from Jha, in Lahan, Siraha, just 17km from the Indian border. Most people in the area work in agriculture, growing rice and corn or tending to goats and cows.

Runa Jha, in her solar shop in Janakpur, eastern Nepal (Photo: Lucy EJ Woods)

In many communities, women “hide their faces and do not talk to men” and “are not really allowed to get a job,” says Abhilahsa Poudel, Empower Generation’s communications coordinator.

But solar power’s effect on village life is inarguable. Its allows for cleaner home environments, with light into the evenings and the ability to charge a mobile phone.

The social benefits that flow from the women-run solar businesses, means that Jha and Choudhary have become admired for their work by both men and women in their communities. “Everyone wants to be like [Choudhary] and to work like her,” says Poudel.

Jha and Choudhary are two of the 23 women that NGO Empower Generation has trained to be renewable energy entrepreneurs, who in turn, employ and manage a further 170 sales agents. Some of the agents are men, but most are aspirational young women, creating a ripple effect of empowerment through sustainable, profitable employment.

“Before, women were not allowed outside the house, and were told not to study as they have to do the housework,” Jha says.

Empower Generation mentors and supports women registering their own businesses to sell solar lanterns, solar home systems, clean cook stoves and water filters. The trainee entrepreneurs are given lessons on climate change and the adverse effects of fossil fuels, becoming leaders in their community for promoting renewable energy and environmental awareness.

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As women do not traditionally work in energy, Empower Generation’s work aims to “really move the needle on how women are valued,” and change the rural Nepalese culture of women being considered to be the property of their husband’s families, says Empower Generation co-founder Anya Cherneff.

The “priority is to create bad-ass business women,” says Cherneff.

Since owning and running a solar business, Jha has taken on other leadership roles, including leading a community clean-up group. “I feel like I want to lead now; I like to lead,” says Jha.

Many of the women working with Empower Generation apply their skills and confidence to further business ventures and other arenas of public life. Choudhary is currently running as a candidate in local government elections, and Sita Adhikari, Empower Generation co-founder is now a United Nations adviser.

The Ashden awards ceremony on Thursday will host former US vice-president Al Gore as keynote speaker.

Adhikari said that receiving the award “encourages us to work even harder to cultivate more women entrepreneurs who are providing reliable, affordable clean tech solutions.”

Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/17/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views, contents, and materials of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability, accuracy, and consistency of the republished article. If you need additional information about the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at info@indeseem.org.

Welcoming Alena Kalodzitsa

Please allow me to introduce Ms. Alena Kalodzitsa.  Alena has decided to come on board as one of our Technical Specialists in the capacity of the Economic Development & Social Policy Specialist. In this role, Alena will work with Mrs. Chantal Kassa, Director of Operations & Strategic Partnerships in which she will facilitate our organization with the functional knowledge of the United Nations Systems specifically the United Nations Economic and Social Council and its specialized agencies and partners and how we could leverage opportunities available for the advancement of our vision and mission.

Alena will also coordinate with others to provide expert recommendations, strategic priorities, interventions, research, and development outcomes to the corporate team, our development partners, and stakeholders as the need arise. She will work with the corporate team to conduct research to formulate strategic plans to address economic and social problems related to the production and distribution of resources across all our impact areas to collaboratively achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and beyond.

Alena holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the Eastern Illinois University and a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and Administration from Lithuanian Christian College located in Klaipeda, Lithuania. Her passion for economic development with emphasis on youth made her travel in more than twenty countries around the world where she has worked with various international youth organizations including the United Nations Youth AssemblyWorld Youth AllianceEuropean Youth Parliament, and the Nantucket Project.

Please join me to welcome Alena on board the team and have a wonderful holiday!






Welcoming Mairi McConnochie

We are excited to welcome Mairi McConnochie to INDESEEM INCORPORATED. She holds a Master’s degree in Health, Population, and Society from the London School of Economics (LSE), with a focus in Epidemiology, Health Policy and Planning and Demography in low and middle-income countries. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology from the University of St. Andrews as well as a qualification in Leadership from the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

Mairi is joining our team as the Global & Public Health Technical Specialist and she will work on all matters and projects related to advancing health and sanitation as well as reducing poverty and inequality within the global and public health sectors. She will work with the Director of Global & Public Health.

Mairi’s professional profile speaks volumes and her role as the Director at inHealth Consulting Ltd. – a consulting business specializing in health programme management and development based in the United Kingdom speaks more about her leadership, technical pedigree, and passion for health in developing countries that INDESEEM Inc. could benefit from. I worked with Mairi in the past in Ghana where she worked on several projects and initiatives with local, national, and international organizations and I am excited to have joined us!





Fighting Hidden Hunger in Tanzania: Provitamin A Maize Platform is Launched

PVA Maize. Photo James Gethi (CIMMYT)

By Joyce Maru – Capacity Development & Communication Specialist (BNFB project – CIP)

In Tanzania, Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is considered a major public health problem requiring appropriate nutrition interventions. The overall magnitude of VAD in Tanzania is 33 percent (Global Nutrition Report; 2014), affecting mostly children in preschool and women of reproductive age.  VAD causes morbidity, nutritional blindness, and even death. Even mild levels of VAD may damage health leading to low school performance in children and poor productivity for adults.
A farmer prepares maize porridge using Provitamin A maize. Photo: R.Lunduka/CIMMYT

Provitamin A Maize (PVA) maize is a special type of maize that is biofortified and contains high levels of beta-carotene. Beta-Carotene is an organic, strongly-colored red-orange pigment abundant in plants and fruits. Beta-carotene is what gives PVA maize an orange color and is converted to Vitamin A in the body after consumption to provide additional nutritional benefits.   As a staple food, maize is produced and consumed by most people in Tanzania, and can, therefore, be a cheap and sustainable source of Vitamin A especially for the vulnerable rural poor populations.  To address micronutrient malnutrition (hidden hunger); biofortification works to increase the nutritional value of staple food crops by increasing the density of vitamins and minerals in a crop through either conventional plant breeding; agronomic practices or biotechnology. Examples of these vitamins and minerals that can be increased through biofortification include Provitamin A Carotenoids, zinc, and iron.

The PVA maize was recently introduced to Tanzania through collaborative efforts of multiple institutions including the Government of Tanzania, Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute (TOSCI); Seed companies (Meru Agro-Tours & Consultants Co. Ltd (MATC) and Tanseed International Ltd) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), working as a partnership under the Building Nutritious Food Baskets Project (BNFB). Two Provitamin A maize varieties – Meru VAH517 and Meru VAH519 –were released for commercial production by Meru Agro Tours and Consultants in September 2016.

To catalyze efforts to scale up PVA maize, different actors along the maize value chain launched a PVA maize platform for Tanzania.  The event took place at the Kibo Palace Hotel, Arusha Tanzania on 19 April 2017  international hosted by the BNFB project.

Participants celebrate launch of PVA Maize Platform

Participants included Tanzania Food and Nutrition Centre (TFNC); TOSCI; Seed companies; processors; farmer groups representatives; researchers, policy makers and CIMMYT.

Speaking on behalf of TFNC Dr. Towo Elifatio remarked that in order to effectively and sustainably fight hidden hunger, a platform that brings together key stakeholders is critical and strategic to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and exchange of ideas, innovations, and solutions on production, supply, and utilization of PVA maize. Elifatio noted that all actors along the PVA maize value chain need to be involved in advocating and promoting production and utilization of new technologies such as the PVA maize.

The PVA maize platform will advance the agenda of fighting hidden hunger in Tanzania by linking different stakeholders to relevant authorities on matters relating to PVA maize; as well as provide an opportunity for capacity development for members on critical gaps relating to PVA maize knowledge and biofortification in general. In other words, the platform will become a ‘One stop shop’ for information and knowledge on PVA maize in Tanzania.

Membership of the platform is expected to grow to become multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary to include actors from the ministry of health, nutrition and education, school feeding programs, academic institutions, national agricultural research systems (NARS) among others. The platform will be led and sustained by the national partners who understand the bottlenecks in the sector and can better drive their own agenInternational

The Potato Center (CIP) is collaborating with a consortium of CGIAR research centers; Governments of Nigeria and Tanzania and national partners on an initiative called BNFB, which is testing a scaling-up model through a multi-crop (food basket) approach to address hidden hunger by catalyzing sustainable investments for the production and utilization of biofortified crops that are ready for scaling up including; Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP); vitamin A (yellow) cassava, vitamin A (orange) maize and high iron/zinc beans. The project mainly targets rural populations, especially young children under the age of five and women of reproductive age, in Nigeria and Tanzania.

Read more on BNFB: BNFB  Click here to watch video on BNFB

Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the International Potato Center and retrieved on 06/20/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Supporting creation of institutional platform of 45 million women for social and economic empowerment in rural India: The National Rural Livelihoods Mission

Source: World Bank’s People, Places, and Deliberation. In Photo – Jasmine cultivation


Source: World Bank’s People, Places, and Deliberation. In Photo – Jasmine cultivation

In the early morning at Dadar station in metropolitan Mumbai, a common sight is unloading of tons of jasmine and marigold flowers packed in jute sacks. Flowers come from Jawhar block located in the district of Palghar in Maharashtra. At the village the flowers are procured from each producer, weighed and packed in jute sacks. These are collected from the village bus stands and transported to Dadar in Mumbai by either bus or train. Floriculture has emerged as an alternative source of livelihood for small and marginal farmers in the region. Collective marketing has allowed small producers to aggregate and sell their flowers. Aggregation has enabled producers to realize better incomes through collective bargaining. About 3,500 women farmers have been mobilized as producer groups, and their annual turnover is expected to be around US $ 1 million in the next season.

Similarly, in four tribal districts (Koraput, Rayagada  Gajapati and Mayurbhanj) of Orissa in the eastern part of India, 6,300 women mango producers have been organized to facilitate creation of a Producers’ Company with annual turnover of US $260,000. They planted high-quality mango trees in their land with the help of Government’s horticulture department. They were provided training on pre-harvest, post-harvest management & market information and price discovery. The producer company was able to do local value addition through grading, sorting, packaging and loading through trucks. The producer company has been able to sell products to wholesale and high value channels like retail outlets and have become aggregators for large food retailers and companies. The producer company has helped the members to realize additional income of US $800 for each household.

Mango value chain: sorting, grading and packaging


Many such enterprise clusters have been catalyzed as part of National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) in 30 states in India. The program so far has mobilized more than 45 million women from deprived and poor households and covers more than 40% of rural India.  Women meet regularly within their self-help groups to save and inter-loan money to each other; represent their self-help groups in the village and cluster-level organizations to work on collective economic action and deliver financial and economic services to members.  Based on their savings and lending track record, the members of self-help groups have become clients of commercial banks and borrow from banks to launch businesses and enterprises of their own. They are also provided extension and skills based training to expand their livelihoods. They have also initiated producer organizations and companies to start higher level economic enterprises.  Over last six years women have formed 3.2 million self-help groups and 145,465 village-level organizations. Collectively they have saved US $1.4 billion and leveraged US $ 20 billion from commercial banks.

Women self-help group meeting


NRLM has emerged as the flagship program for women’s economic empowerment in Government of India.  The World Bank funded National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP) has provided support to Ministry of Rural Development, in Government of India to set up professional architecture and systems for implementation of NRLM. The project aims at establishing efficient and effective institutional platforms of the rural poor that enables them to increase household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial and selected public services.
The project has been a site for rich experimentation and innovation, particularly, in addressing challenges common to other development projects: How, for instance, do we efficiently scale and expand a community-led project? How can we bring in innovation and social enterprises into the work of a large-scale government program? And finally, how do we retain and grow human resources within government organizations?

Some of the key innovations in project implementation and scaling up is harnessing community level social capital from all over the country to develop peer learning and extension networks among communities. Community Resource Persons have been a crucial resource for scaling the project across, low-income states in India. Nearly 20,000 rural women, who have successfully come out of poverty, serve as Community Resource Persons. These “poverty-reduction champions” travel outside their villages and to other states to identify the poorest households, using participatory methods. Community Resource Persons train new self-help groups on various sub sectors like financial inclusion, microcredit, agriculture, horticulture, dairy, poultry, and fishery. Through these programs, new women members learn about potential livelihoods opportunities and pathways to take them out of poverty. They use Information Communication Technology (ICT) for providing extension services to members through creating local content and creation of short videos highlighting both internal and external best practices. Video content typically consists of technical demonstrations customized after local experimentation, discussions, or success stories of best practices. After content generation, the existing social networks are used for dissemination.

Community Resource Person preparing learning video


Through “Innovation Forums”—akin to the World Bank’s Development Marketplace—the project brought together social enterprises, grassroots innovators, private sector players, and the government on a common platform to exchange innovations in health, nutrition, livelihoods, skill development, and energy access. Many of the innovations presented at these forums have gone on to be implemented and scaled through the project. Partnerships between the project, social entrepreneurs and private sector agencies have been an avenue to bring innovation to the government. These private sector agencies have connected rural women to wider domestic markets, and, to larger urban and foreign markets as well.

With the help of the World Bank, in each of the NRLM progressive and agile human resource policies were put in place: from recruiting at India’s leading social science, engineering, development studies and management institutes, providing competitive compensation to staff, to implementing a Young Professionals (YP) program. Through the YP program, over 500 young professionals have been placed in low-income states. Many of these young professionals have gone on to start their own social enterprises, drawing from their experience with the NRLM and with implementing a complex, multi-sectorial community-led program.

In 2017, Government of India is working to expand and deepen the program in two directions.  Firstly, it wants to scale up the current program of social and economic mobilization of rural women from 45 million to 87 million ensuring that very women from a deprived household becomes a member of SHG and the related institutional platform. Secondly, it wants to develop 5,000 local economic development clusters across the country to trigger a women enterprise ecosystem throughout the country, especially in low income states and with bottom of pyramid populations. The lessons from these programs are currently being shared in many countries globally through South to South experience sharing and have generated strong interest. The program has demonstrated that designing and implementing a large scale women’s economic empowerment program requires participating women at the center and needs creation of an institutional platform and an enabling ecosystem.

Authors acknowledge contributions by Varun Singh, Vinay Kumar Vutukuru, Debaraj Behera, Anjani Kumar Singh and Paramveer Singh for the case studies, data and pictures.

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Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the World Bank and retrieved on 06/18/2017 and posted at INDESEEM for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


The Queen of Mecuburi: Mozambican Entrepreneur Finds Success in Agribusiness