Youth or Young mothers? the paradox of transitions in the rural women’s lives

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2020 is a unique year. We have spent most of it ‘surprised’ by the turn of events. In early 2020, we found ourselves in a global health pandemic. We started by learning that we could not travel from one country to another. At first, we thought it will be a few weeks, maybe a few months of disruption, but this has persisted for most of the year 2020. The virus, first reported in China travelled the world, impacting sectors of the national and international economy as well as social processes (no large gatherings like attending schools, colleges, sport events, weddings, funerals in person) and even changing long-held traditions like hugging and handshaking. The year has gone by, we have worked from home, social distanced, worn face masks, maintained research and development collaborations online through amazing innovations on ‘meeting apps’ and now, it is October 2020, and our attention is drawn to the UN International Day of Rural Women. On this day, we focus on Rural Women and Girls building resilience – in the face of two great stresses – Covid-19 and climate change among other socio-ecological stresses!

Critical role of girls and women in the drylands, during the COVID-19 pandemic

In this year, we have learnt that food availability and accessibility hinge on peoples’ movements i.e. interconnectedness of various sectors of the food system despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Investments of the dryland farmers and especially the critical role that women and girls play in ensuring the continued thriving of dryland rural households and communities, improving livelihoods and overall wellbeing is well acknowledged as key ingredient for delivering food in the agri-food system. As workers in other sectors comfortably worked from home, the farmers have had to be out there in the field. The demands on their time and commitment were even more this year than before. The critical role farmers play in food production and the associated value chain players in food systems delivery to consumers have been demonstrated. Even in a pandemic, populations needed to be nourished! We salute the rural farmers, and especially the women farmers, who make up 24-56% of labor providers in rural Africa*[1], who bear the largest burden in the drylands!

In support of provision of food in the drylands, ICRISAT and the CRP-Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (GLDC) is contributing by delivering high quality seeds of improved varieties of dryland cereals and grain legumes as a tool for recovery from COVID-19. The cereals and legumes we offer (millets, sorghums, groundnuts, chickpeas, pigeonpeas) are SMART foods that are highly nutritious and, in a recipe, offer trace minerals, oils and vitamins that contribute to restoration of health for invalids, young children and the old. We purpose to have women and youth participating in the GLDC seed value chains (as contract seed producers or as seed distributing agents) as well as in the grain value chains (as aggregators or farm level production of high quality grains that are responsive to the preferences and needs of the markets).

Read more on the transitions paradox of young girls to young mothers in the drylands, and how we can better cater to their needs.

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