International Women’s Day 2019: Women in seed systems in Africa

The maize seed sector in eastern and southern Africa is male-dominated. Most seed companies operating in the region are owned and run by men. Access to land and financial capital can often be a constraint for women who are keen on investing in agriculture and agribusiness. However, there are women working in this sector, breaking social barriers, making a contribution to improving household nutrition and livelihoods by providing jobs and improved seed varieties.

The Gender team within the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center’s (CIMMYT) Socioeconomics Program conducted interviews with women owners of seed companies in eastern and southern Africa. They shared information on their background, their motivation to start their businesses, what sets their companies apart from the competition, the innovative approaches they use to ensure smallholder farmers adopt improved seed varieties, the unique challenges they face as women in the seed sector and the potential for growth of their companies. The resulting stories will be published as a report in May 2019.

These women in leading roles serve as mentors and examples to both male and female employees. In honor of International Women’s Day, held March 8, 2019, CIMMYT would like to share some of their stories to recognize these women — and many others like them — and the important work they do in seed systems in Africa.