Support African women working in agriculture

 

 

EMPOWERMENT

As South Africa commemorates Women’s Month, the country will reflect on the progress made in achieving gender equality and main-streaming the gender agenda across all areas, including agriculture.

Agriculture sustains 70% of Africa’s livelihoods, while playing an integral role as an engine of economic growth and poverty reduction. African women, on average, make up 40% of the agricultural labour workforce and produce 70% of Africa’s food, but their contributions continue to be barely recognised. Many face gender discrimination according to a survey by American agricultural chemical and seed company Corteva Agriscience, which was carried out in several African countries.

This is despite several multi-pronged initiatives to help women launched by African governments, universities, nongovernmental organisations and others. African Women in Agricultural Research and Development, for example, is an initiative aimed at mentoring, empowering and raising the next generation of women in agricultural sciences, while strengthening their research and leadership skills. The Kenyan government passed affirmative policies that preferentially give tenders to African women-led agricultural enterprises. International aid agencies such as USAID also have initiatives aimed at correcting gender imbalances in agriculture.

These efforts are starting to pay off. A recent feature by online site Quartz Africa, based on an article about the gender gap published in the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security, reported that African women are starting to take the lead in agricultural research. There is evidence of a positive relationship between empowering women and an increase in agricultural crop productivity, and reducing the gender gap in agriculture.

But much more needs to happen. In line with the month-long celebrations taking place in South Africa, women who are already making it in agriculture and the many enterprises they have founded must be celebrated. This includes publicly highlighting women who are excelling in the rest of Africa. Doing so will show women that they can pursue agriculture and succeed.

Second, there is a need to get more women trained and retrained. Agriculture is a knowledge-intensive field, with new technologies emerging every day, from drones and sensor technology to climate-smart agriculture, which all improve productivity.

The training done must be respectful of women’s workloads and the other difficulties they face. African cultural dynamics are biased in a way that, while women farm, it is men who participate in agricultural extension training. This leaves women at a disadvantage, especially about recent agricultural technologies.

Scholarships for African women must be created. African governments, agricultural universities, and institutions at the forefront in agricultural research and policy, such as South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology and the Alliance for a Green Revolution must set aside internships and positions for women. We must invest in a sustainable pipeline so that women can keep thriving and succeeding in agriculture.

Even as we celebrate success, we must create platforms where women in agriculture can connect and share both the successes and challenges that they face every day.

If Africa wants to build a thriving agricultural sector, we must invest in women and inspire them to pursue agricultural sciences.

Esther Ngumbi is a postdoctoral researcher in the entomology department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a Fellow at the World Policy Institute

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Esther Ngumbi
Guest Author
Advertisting

Stella set to retain her perks

Communication minister will keep Cabinet perks during her two months of special leave

Not a sweet deal, Mister

Mister Sweet workers say they will not risk their health, and the lives of others, to continue producing and packaging confectionaries

Covid-19 grounds Nigeria’s medical tourists

The country’s elites, including the president, travelled abroad for treatment but now they must use the country’s neglected health system

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Press Releases

Rahima Moosa Hospital nursing college introduces no-touch facial recognition access system

The new system allows the hospital to enrol people’s faces immediately, using artificial intelligence, and integrates easily with existing access control infrastructure, including card readers and biometrics

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world