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Where Are Future Women Scientists?

Nairobi, April 8 2011-Do you know that women are a minority, representing only 10percent of the researchers in the African continent.

Do you know that Women researchers in sub-Saharan Africa hold junior level positions,

Closer home, are you curious on the age percent of Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) researchers.

Find out more of these including the time it takes for a young scientist to qualify for a doctorate of philosophy level or Master’s of Science degree and why KARI convinced the government to raise the retirement age from 55- 65 years.

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Where Are Future Women Scientists?

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Women researchers in sub-Saharan Africa hold junior level positions, a report on African agricultural research and development has revealed.

The report prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) assessing recent trends in agricultural research on the continent further shows that gender disparity is still an issue in agriculture research institutes with only 22 percent of full time employed researchers been female in 2008, a small jump up from 18 percent in 2001.

The report that examined trends in agricultural research in 32 countries in the continent, found that women in these research institutions only required a Bachelor of Science level qualification with a majority in higher learning institutions.

Female agricultural researchers  in Botswana, South Africa, Eritrea and Sudan  represent a majority with 30 percent compared to their counter parts in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia , Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal where women are a minority, representing only 10percent of the researchers.

The situation is wanting as 70percent of women in the continent are farmers. Female researchers are better placed to address challenges in the sector and provide agricultural solutions faced by women in farming.

Researchers in the continent have high qualifications with South Africa having the most qualified research staff in the region. Researchers in Guinea and Eritrea are the least qualified.

In 2008, 30percent of Agricultural researchers in the region had qualifications at the doctorate of philosophy level, 43percent with Master’s of Science degree and 27 percent with bachelor of science degree qualification with more than 40percent of researchers employed in Benin, Republic of Congo and South Africa trained at the doctorate of philosophy level.

Salaries

Remuneration remains a challenge in most research institutions. “The wages of a field labourer or lab assistant in Kenya are much lower than in any European Country.”

The report notes that conditions of service, staff salary and retirement packages are poor in many parts of the region.

Age Concerns.

Senegal has one of the oldest pool of scientists in West Africa, with many expected to attain retirement in the next decade. In Cameroon and Congo researchers average age is over 50years.

In Kenya, 36percent of Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) researchers in 2007 were above 51years or older, with 59percent of its researchers averaging well over 50years.

In a move to bridge the gap created by the time it takes for a young scientist to qualify for a doctorate of philosophy level or Master’s of Science degree, KARI convinced the government to raise the retirement age from 55- 65 years.

The report recommends more investments in agriculture R & D education to facilitate universities increase the number and size of their MSC and PHD programs. The need to have in place mentoring programs to facilitate on the job training for junior scientists to bridge the transition between old researchers and the new generation of scientists.

The report was prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) assessing recent trends in agricultural research on the continent by identifying which countries are struggling and progressing while making recommendations to address major challenges.

By Martha Nyambura

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