The African Women Leaders in Agriculture and the Environment (AWLAE) program began in 1989, just four years after Winrock’s founding. Stemming from its Rockefeller legacy — in particular the capacity-building of its legacy organization the Agricultural Development Council — the AWLAE program addressed the lack of highly educated African women in the sciences by offering scholarships for master’s or Ph.D. programs, coupled with leadership training and a peer network to support professional growth.
“Winrock launched AWLAE as part of a strategy to address food security in Africa. We recognized women as engines for change and supported them,” wrote former Winrock Board member Herbert Lucas in Women Leaders: Shaping the Future of Africa, a 2008 Winrock publication that profiled AWLAE scholars. “We accepted that even though investment in women’s higher education might be a long-term proposition, it would yield significant impact on rural development. And it has!”
In addition to the 570 scholarships for advanced studies it awarded, AWLAE equipped over 1,500 women with leadership skills, enabled more than 50,000 girls to pursue their educations and provided training to 100,000 women farmers in new technologies. AWLAE fellows continue to influence women and girls through their work in education, government ministries, civil society and networking activities.
Here are some of their stories, drawn from the publication Women Leaders.