New report targets women’s participation in agribusiness

31/08/2015
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The African Development Bank has launched a report that seeks to empower women to take the lead in agribusiness and agriculture value chains thus participating in Africa’s economic growth process.

The report, Economic Empowerment of African Women Through Equitable Participation in Agricultural Value Chains, identifies opportunities for women that can increase Africa’s competitiveness and participation in global value chains.

“Women’s presence in the agricultural labour force is significant at 50% and produces 80% of Africa’s food. There is no better overlapping opportunity to support women’s economic empowerment and to strengthen a critical sector on the continent,” Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB’s Bank’s Special Envoy on Gender (SEOG), said Thursday.

The study, jointly commissioned by the Office of the SEOG and the Bank’s Department for Agriculture and Agro-industry, identifies opportunities for women in four subsectors including cocoa, coffee, cotton and cassava sectors in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, respectively. These sectors account for US $43 billion in production and US $12 billion in export value across the focus countries. “They present opportunities to expand the export market share by improving processing techniques and integrating production into regional and global value chains,” the report indicates.

The report says women can seize the opportunities if backed by the right policies, technologies, training, and access to financing. In Côte d’Ivoire, Africa’s largest cocoa producer, generating one third of the world’s cocoa, “land is available, but women do not have the right training and appropriate funding to modernise agricultural systems,” according to Irié Lou Colette, Chairperson of the National Federation of Croppers Cooperatives .

“To be active in agriculture it requires huge investments, and we as women are ready to move when given the right support. Women provide the most labour in agriculture; therefore it is important that they are facilitated accordingly if Africa is to feed itself,” she said.

The same facilitation is required for Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, which are Africa’s largest producers of coffee, cotton and cassava, respectively.

Fred Kawuma, Secretary General of Inter-African Coffee Organisation, called for public-private partnerships in agribusiness that target women’s groups, integrating them into value chains. “In the case of coffee, for example, there is need to offer support in processing, packaging, and market access in order to make women farmers in coffee-producing countries more competitive,” he noted.

The AfDB reiterated its support to agriculture. “Investing in agriculture is a sure way of reaching majority of women in Africa, as well as helping achieve sustainable development goals,” said Chiji Ojukwu, Director of the Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-industry Department, noting that the Bank’s Strategy centres on improving investments in agriculture with a focus on women.