In a dusty field in Kitui, eastern Kenya, farmers are being taught how to construct small, semi-circular barriers of earth that control the flow of water, slowing its run-off.
Strikingly, of the 90 farmers, few are men. The rest are women. It is a common sight in rural areas of Kenya and South Sudan, as most smallholder farmers are women. The men have gone to look for work in the towns and cities, leaving the women to tend to the crops. At bore holes – deep wells – it's the same story. Women or young girls have walked for miles to come and fetch water, a time-consuming process. Not only do they have to walk long distances, they may have to wait – an hour is not uncommon – for their turn.
The role of women and adolescent girls is spelt out in a report released on Friday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies Its key point is that adolescent girls and women are the key to unlocking the full potential of agricultural development in poor countries and ensuring food security.
"If the world is to meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, we must invest in the human capital of those
with the potential to transform agricultural economies – adolescent girls," said Catherine Bertini, the report's lead
"Already, they carry much of families' burdens; with opportunity, they can be major change agents for rural communities and nations. As nations are rediscovering the importance of agricultural development, we want to ensure that the new definition of rural economies' strengths includes the critical role of adolescent girls."