Researcher Committed to Safeguarding Women’s Economic Empowerment

Prof. Muthuri handing over a fruit tree seedling to a farmer in Rwanda, the then Australian High Commissioner H E John Feakes (centre) looking on.

The poverty rise brought about by Covid-19 pandemic is steadily widening the gender- poverty gap with more women being pushed towards desolation than men.

To curb this, Prof. Catherine Muthuri, a JKUAT PhD alumni in Plant Ecophysiology, has committed her work to securing women’s economic stability to cushion them against Covid-19 scourge.

Through her work as the current Regional Coordinator for the Eastern and Southern Africa Region for World Agroforestry –​ ICRAF, and Project Manager for the trees for food security project funded by ACIAR, Prof. Muthuri is using agro-forestry as a platform to address gender inequalities, and empowering women and youth groups in ways that contribute to sustainable agriculture.

According to her, the project implementation approaches are participatory, context specific and gender-responsive as they endeavor to ensure that women and girls benefit. For instance, in Mount Elgon, Uganda, the project conducted a training on climate-smart agroforestry, reaching 364 women and 252 youth.

“This training empowered the participants with skills on growing suitable trees for soil fertility improvement, environmental-friendly options to manage pests and diseases on-farm and appropriate tree-crop management practices hence contributing to improved food and income security during and beyond the pandemic,” said Prof. Muthuri.

In order to further shield women from bearing the economic and social stress of COVID-19, Prof. Muthuri has taken steps to ensure that young female scientists actively receive mentorship in professional skills like writing scientific publications and other life skills from her organization.

She noted that “this is a crucial way of strengthening professional skills and succession planning in terms of project management and career growth”.

While rallying for more organizations to join the pursuit of gender equality, Prof. Muthuri attributed her success to concerted efforts from stakeholders such as the government, research institutes and universities who she said, have continuously supported her quest.

She noted that in most East African countries, agroforestry is spearheaded by women and youth because they comprise most of the labour force on the farm.

She pledged to continue fostering projects that promote deliberate efforts to ensure capacity development activities that encompass women and youth.

Prof. Muthuri is a former Chairperson of the Department of Botany.

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