Arab Women Leaders in Agriculture (AWLA)

Problem Overview

The need to address food security challenges of the 21st century in the Middle East and North Africa region has never been as urgent as it is now, especially in light of the growing population and the increasing effects of climate change. These challenges make it more difficult to secure the food needs of the region’s inhabitants in the coming years. As these challenges put future food security in the region at risk, the agricultural sector needs more innovation and soon.

Despite the widely recognized need for improved agricultural production and distribution, agricultural research is lagging behind. Women in particular represent a small number of the agricultural research scientists in the region — and certainly throughout the world. In the field of research and innovation, the average share of women scientists across the MENA region stands at a mere 17%, which in comparison to other regions is the lowest. The share of women scientists is higher at the graduate level: women represent an average of 30% of researchers with Bachelor of Science degrees, but only 22% and 18% with Master of Science and PhD degrees respectively.

Getting more women to work on food, nutrition and water security issues in general and particularly in agricultural research is one way to boost much-needed innovation. Studies have shown that gender-balanced teams improve innovation and productivity. The latest research also confirms that women are critical to innovation. One study, for example, found that the proportion of women in teams is positively linked with the teams’ success.

To address the challenges facing Arab women researchers in agriculture, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) launched the first-of-its-kind fellowship program, Arab Women Leaders in Agriculture (AWLA), a one-year-long capacity-building program dedicated to Arab women researchers and focused on building their leadership and research skills in agriculture-related fields with a particular focus on food, nutrition and water security in the MENA region.

Research Innovation Theme
SDG 5: Gender Equality, SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 15: Life on Land, SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals
Project SDGs
SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 13: Climate action
SDG 15: Life on land
SDG 17: Partnership for the goals
Islamic Development Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CGIAR Research Program on Wheat
January 2019 - March 2020
Project Lead

Ghazi Al-Jabri, Capacity Building Specialist (

Project Region
Near East and North Africa
Project Countries
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD)
  • Center for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR)
  • James Cook University (JCU), Australia