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AfDB unveils plan to empower Nigerian women in agriculture


The office of the Special Envoy on Gender (SEOG) and the Department for Agriculture and Agro-industry (OSAN) of the African Development Bank (AfDB) commissioned a report, “Economic Empowerment of African Women through Equitable Participation in Agricultural Value Chains”. The study, which was launched in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in August 2015, identifies opportunities for women in four subsectors including cocoa, coffee, cotton and cassava sectors in Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, respectively.

According to the report, Nigeria represents Africa’s top producer of cassava with 53 million tons in 2013 – about 20% of global cassava (approximately USD 16 billion in value); however, the country only exported USD 1 million worth of the staple. The global production of cassava was valued at USD 51 billion in 2013 – the highest production value (USD 35 billion) of the four sub-sectors featured in the report, but signifying the lowest export value (approximately USD 1-2 million).

“Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world, but that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t lift women out of poverty. I want us to be the largest processor of cassava in the world as well, and this can be done by adding value to our products and moving women up the value chain,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

The Nigeria launch of the report took place in Abuja on October 19, 2015, with the AfDB’s Country Director for Nigeria, Ousmane Dore, calling on partners to act on the findings.

“Our objective for commissioning the study was for the African Development Bank to play a decisive role in contributing to the economic empowerment of African women in agriculture,” said Dore. “This event is a call for all our esteemed stakeholders to join forces in a discussion on to how to take this work forward.” 

There are approximately 6 million smallhold cassava farmers in Nigeria alone, and women account for a quarter of these smallholders, but earn only 17% of their male counterparts’ income because their productivity is lower than that of men. According to Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the AfDB’s Special Envoy on Gender, “African women feed the continent and they can feed the world, too. But we must close the wide gap in wages and agricultural yields between men and women if Africa is to achieve full economic transformation.”

The report highlights five major constraints that can limit women’s productivity and full inclusion into the agricultural economy, namely: lack of access to assets such as land and modern equipment, limited access to financing, limited training, government policies that fail to address the specific issues faced by women in the sector, and time constraints due to heavy domestic responsibilities.

The report highlighted three broad areas for action that could begin to address the specific constraints women face in each focus country:

  • Grow the number of large-scale agribusiness entrepreneurs by providing access to financing and training, and improving regional and global market links.
  • Make sure women are remunerated by setting them up as co-owners, improving productivity, and providing training in core business skills.
  • Increase women’s access to niche markets by producing and marketing women-only products.

The role of women is largely limited to the unskilled parts of production: Few own the land on which they work, they are rarely remunerated for their labour and they often do not control the income generated from the sale of agricultural produce.

This report help identify areas that the AfDB and its partners can target to empower women economically through agriculture as the Bank implements its Gender Strategy (2014-2018).

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