92 | Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) Report

In many parts of the world today the trend is increasing toward what is termed the feminization of agriculture. As men's participation in agriculture declines, the role of women in agricultural production becomes ever more dominant. War, and sickness and death from HIV and AIDS, have reduced rural male populations. Another major cause of this phenomenon is the migration of men from rural areas to towns and cities, in their own countries or abroad, in search of paid employment.

This will be in line with the present trend regarding the gradual increase of women's work over time in some countries of the region. Between the years 1960 and 1985, the percentage of women's participation in agriculture increased considerably in all countries (Narayan, 2002).

This trend is resulting in an increase in the proportion of households headed by women. Approximately one-third of all rural households in sub-Saharan Africa are now headed by women. Studies have shown that women heads of household tend to be younger and less educated than their male counterparts. They also generally have less land to work and even less capital and extra farm labor for working it.

With a shortage of labor and capital, women heads of household will often be forced to make adjustments to cropping patterns and farming systems. These adjustments will result in decreases in production and, in some cases, shifts toward less nutritious crops. Not surprisingly, these households will often suffer from increased malnutrition and food insecurity.Nor has the fact that the participation of women will increase translate into their ownership of resources such as land, labor, credit and capital. As an example, traditional inheritance laws may be cited whereby the rights of the male heirs are twice those of the female.

Nevertheless, through higher education for women and change in attitude, society will develop institutions of governance, legal systems and social or gender-sensitive policies that will decrease disparities between women and men (UNDP, 2005). AKST investment, indigenous knowledge and transgenics

The visible signs of science and technology are most evident in food production. Much of the increase in agricultural output over the past 40 years has come from an increase in yields per hectare rather than an expansion of area under cultivation.

Investment in agricultural research has a net payoff; in many developing countries, the share of agriculture in the GDP ranges from 25 to 70 percent (Hurni et al., 2001; FAO, 2003). However, the share of investment in agriculture and agricultural research will continue to be low, compared with that internationally recommended (FAO, 2004). This is one of the reasons that new technologies and better agricultural practices have not taken root in CWANA countries, and traditional agricultural practices, which are relatively less efficient, continue to dominate. Adoption of the new and more efficient agricultural technologies will require urgent and increased investment in AKST (Inter Academy Council, 2004a; CGIAR Science Council, 2005)

Agricultural technologies and knowledge have, until recently, largely been created and disseminated by public


institutions. But over the past two decades, biotechnology for agricultural production has developed rapidly, and the world economy has become more globalized and liberalized. This has boosted private investment in agricultural research and technology, exposing agriculture in developing countries to international markets and the influence of multinational corporations. But the public sector still has a role to play, particularly in managing the new knowledge, supporting research to fill any remaining gaps, promoting and regulating private companies, and ensuring their effects on the environment are adequately assessed.

However, the relatively weak institutional and human capital base in the region has negatively affected agricultural development. With the establishment of globalization, CWANA countries will have opportunity to interact across borders with nations and communities that have advanced production systems and practices. Exchange of knowledge and experience across regional and international boundaries will let scientific information flow in, to the advantage of agricultural development in CWANA. The role of internationally recognized scientific and research organizations and institutions in the region will be of great benefit in this respect.

Countries of the region will get involved in investment treaties with transfer of technology. Considering that 90 percent of the genetic resources of the world are in the South, of which CWANA is a part, these countries will expand claims for intellectual property rights for providing access to genetic resources and indigenous knowledge. With good management and development, these resources will accrue monetary gains to the advantage of their custodians. But in the immediate future, organizational fragmentation of agricultural research will continue to prevail in most CWANA countries.

Indigenous knowledge is local knowledge, unique to a given culture or society. Indigenous agricultural and environmental knowledge gained global recognition through the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. However, indigenous knowledge systems have never been systematically recorded in written form and therefore are not readily accessible to agricultural researchers, development practitioners or policy makers.

There is no standard definition of indigenous knowledge; however, there is general understanding as to what constitutes it. It is variously regarded as ethnoscience, folk knowledge, traditional knowledge, local knowledge and people's knowledge. The role of indigenous knowledge in preserving agrobiodiversity is essential to human development.

Small-scale, resource-poor farmers have good reasons for sticking to their local knowledge and the farming practices they have always used. Modern technologies can be successful and sustainable only if the local knowledge interplay of cultural, social and ecological systems are taken into consideration. In so stating, we suggest that, given the pervasive scenario of rapid population growth and the attendant domestic food demand deficits, the need has emerged to balance sustaining the indigenous knowledge production system with modern technology, through a systematic hybridization strategy (Titilola, 1990, 1994).

Indigenous knowledge of plant genetic resources is an invaluable tool in the search for new ways to conserve and