Women in agriculture must be facilitated, panel hears

05/09/2017
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Woman smiling with her crop

Today’s technological advances and innovations in agriculture should touch every aspects of women’s lives in order for them to have the desired impact on African societies.

This was deliberated on Tuesday, September 5 at the 7th African Green Revolution Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

In a session on “Women in Agriculture”, leaders in politics, business and civil society discussed how challenges to women in agriculture can be overcome and how young women can be facilitated to join the sector.

Fatimata Dia Sow, the Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, noted that women in Africa continued to be denied access to land by some national laws and cultures, which has hindered their ability to own and implement agricultural transformation innovations.

“Agriculture transformation on the continent is still hindered by backward practices that hinder women from owning land and deciding what they do on it,” she said.

“This must change in order to meet the urgent food demands in Africa. Women need to get access to productivity tools and to be owners of land. Both government and civil societies have a role in seeing this happen.”

On top of that, the majority of women in rural Africa are locked in traditional farming, and yet they have a dire responsibility of feeding and taking care of their families, according to Tako Ndiaye, Senior Gender Officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Africa.

“African women in agriculture represent 52 percent of the total population in the sector and are responsible. They spend 40 billion hours looking for water and account for over half of the agricultural labour on farms in Sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.

“This indicates that if women are facilitated beyond the current level, they will uplift the agriculture sector of this continent and contribute significantly to their countries’ economies.”

According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), women across the continent need more access to finance and financial services, because African women farmers experience greater constraints than their male counterparts.

At a previous session, Vanessa Moungar, the Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society at AfDB, noted that there is need to enable women in agriculture to overcome a general lack of necessary management skills and absorptive capacities required to profitably utilize available financial and productive resources.

“Increasing the use of technology and fertilizers by women is now a critical priority for narrowing the gender gap in agricultural productivity, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.

“The Bank is committed towards developing women’s technical and entrepreneurial skills, which will go a long way in ensuring the continent’s food security, especially in the context of the dynamic agricultural trade and unpredictable long-term effects of climate change.”

Women produce between 60 to 80 percent of the continent’s food, according to the FAO.

The African Development Bank has developed specific programs designed to help women in agriculture over the years.

For example, in April 2017, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) sought the African Development Bank’s financial support to implement the Northern Rural Growth Programme (NRGP) in Ghana at a cost of US $92.79 million.

The programme was designed to empower women and promote equitable and sustainable reduction of poverty and food insecurity among rural households in Northern Ghana.