The United Nations University – Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA) is implementing a development initiative called “Innovate for Clean Agricultural Technologies” (INFoCAT) to empower women and youth in agriculture.
The project seeks to advance women and youth economic empowerment, especially in rural communities in selected African countries comprising Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal.
It aims at developing clean energy agricultural technologies that are affordable, timesaving, and labour-saving.
It will support clean energy agricultural technology start-ups with a focus on women-led companies.
It presents an opportunity for female technology innovators to enhance their product offerings and supply clean energy solutions to smallholder farmers.
INFoCAT will inform gender-sensitive policy reforms in the selected countries.
Officials of UNU-INRA said this during a stakeholder workshop organised in Accra to introduce the project to stakeholders and to solicit their input and support for a successful project implementation.
Prof Fatima Denton, Director, UNU-INRA, in an address delivered on her behalf, said the clean energy sector offered immense potential for employment, entrepreneurship, decision making and leadership.
She said, however, there were structural barriers within the energy system that hindered women and youth from fully participating and benefiting from those opportunities.
“Some of these barriers are gender biases, limited access to finance and resources, and underrepresentation in decision-making role,” she noted.
She said small and medium size enterprises in the manufacturing sector were mostly male-owned, whilst food processing in the informal sector mainly used traditional energy sources such as charcoal, firewood and crop residues.
“The INFoCAT project is rooted in recognising the vital role of small and medium enterprises and the informal sector in addressing technology and energy needs thereby promoting clean energy opportunity and contributing to sustainable development,” Prof Denton indicated.
“It offers avenues for women and youth to actively participate in the clean energy value chain,” she added.
Ms Gifty Ampomah, Research Fellow, UNU-INRA, said countries needed to make a conscious effort not to leave anyone behind, especially in developing their energy transition processes, adding that “INFoCAT is thus grounded in just energy transitions and gender inclusion.”
She indicated that the project would be executed in four stages comprising stakeholder engagement and team formation, research development and idea incubation, implementation of best solutions, and activities to influence policy and promote uptake of technologies that would be developed.
Dr Ferdinand Tornyie, Research Fellow, UNU-INRA, said the approach for the implementation would involve baseline study, call for expression of interest, selection process, capacity building, and matching with green entrepreneurs.
It would also include award of grants, mentorship, as well as policy and regulatory support, he said.
INFoCAT is a 30-month project with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada.