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Women’s Inclusion in Senegal’s Rapidly Transforming Rice Sector

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While some scientists and policy makers recognize women’s centrality in Senegalese rice production, many among them conceptualize women as unskilled labor rather than as keepers of knowledge. This could not be further from the truth. Women’s expertise represents a deep well of agronomic knowledge about rice, passed down over generations. Ignoring this knowledge not only takes away from women’s power in rice, it also holds modern rice production back from its true potential. National investments in Senegal’s rice sector have primarily focused on irrigated rice production of Oryza Sativa in the Senegal River Valley, but Oryza Glaberrima cultivars bred by West African women for 3000 years can survive in sub-ideal soils, resist drought brought on by climate change, and match local taste and texture preferences. Using a systematic review of 94 secondary sources, this thesis argues in favor of 1) incorporating women’s indigenous knowledge into agricultural research and development; 2) increasing women’s representation in agricultural degree programs; and 3) addressing gender bias in agricultural research as key strategies toward creating a more equitable, ecologically sustainable and economically prosperous future for Senegal’s rice sector. Women’s inclusion is an economic imperative; the indigenous knowledge that women hold on rice cultivars and management practices can make the rice sector financially sustainable by preventing ecological problems like excess soil salinity. The human capital that women represent will be needed to sustain high yields in modern operations, and their power as consumers and decision makers for rice purchases make women gatekeepers of domestic rice profits.

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This item is under embargo until August 10, 2023.