KWeather

 

    JM Social Icons

    Breadcrumbs

    High Yield

     Women-in-Agriculture.jpg



    I first met Memory in Kasungu, in the Northern part of Malawi. Memory, a mother of six, farmed on a one acre piece of land alongside her husband. Every year, they planted maize and beans, often from seed that they had saved from the last season, or bought in the market. The previous season however, they had been lucky. A government subsidy program had provided them with improved seed and fertilizer, they had expanded their farm and the harvest was good.


    When I asked Memory, how life had changed for her and her family, her answer was not as simple as I had expected. Yes, the family had harvested more maize, more than they had ever harvested. But this had come with additional costs. Her workload had increased, it meant she had to spend more time on the farm doing tasks that men shunned as women’s work, such as weeding and harvesting, this in addition to looking after her six children. Her husband had sold most of the maize and beans, despite her pleas to save some of it for food in case the next season did not go well.

    They had quarreled, and for a few weeks, she had gone to live with her parents. Her husband argued he was the head of the household, and he had a right to make decisions on the sale of the maize. After all, the land belonged to him, and to his father before that.


    While access to inputs and technologies is important for women, Memory’s story shows us that it is equally important to address the harmful social and cultural norms that prevent women from making decisions that can improve their lives, such as owning property, land, and controlling finances.


    The future of our continent depends on it. In sub-Saharan Africa, gender inequality costs us an estimated US$ 95 billion a year. Nowhere is this more evident than in the agriculture sector, which employs 63% of economically active women. We know, for example, that if women were given the same access to productive resources such as fertilizers, machinery and information as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent.


    But closing this gap in access to resources does not automatically lead to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Explicit efforts are needed to ensure that the engagement of women in agriculture delivers benefits for women. Only then will it benefit entire families, societies and economies.


    First, we need to address the enormous burden of work for rural women. In developing countries in Africa and Asia women typically work between 12 to 13 hours per week more than men doing farm work, care work. In sub-Saharan Africa women spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water. In Tanzania alone, increasing access to water would free up women’s working hours and, if converted into paid employment, would be equivalent to 1 million new full-time jobs for women.

    Investments in improved agricultural technologies can also improve efficiency of household tasks and save women’s time. A project funded by IDRC in Kenya and Uganda, developed precooked bean products that reduced cooking time for beans, a common source of protein, from 3 hours to 15 minutes saving on women’s time, water and firewood. We need more investments like this that reduce the burden of work for rural women.


    Second, we need to address the gender and social norms that still determine what a woman’s place is in terms of household decision making and ownership of property. In Kenya for example, despite a very progressive constitution that guarantees inheritance of land by sons and daughters, only one percent of land titles are held by women with another five percent held by women jointly with men. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, a society’s perception is still that women and girls should not own land. Approaches that challenge these norms and engage men are being tested in a few places.

    In Malawi and Zambia, for example, a fisheries project funded by IDRC has been using theatre to shift perceptions on women’s roles in the fisheries sector. Decision making by women on use of income has risen by 32 percentage points. Projects like these that seek to understand and tackle entrenched social norms should be replicated.


    Finally, we need to invest in data and evidence on what works for empowering women in agriculture. In 2013, USAID’s Feed the Future program developed the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index. Using this index, people working in agriculture and development can track what impact their innovations have on women’s empowerment in the sector. Such data can tell us what is working and what needs to be taken to scale.


    As the agriculture community in Africa converges at the African Green Revolution Forum in Abidjan in September, I hope that we not only discuss what women can do for agriculture, but what agriculture, and we in the agriculture community can do to ensure that agriculture serves women, their families, communities and economies.


    Dr Jemimah Njuki is a Senior Program Specialist at Canada’s International Development Research Centre where she manages a portfolio of agriculture and food security, and women's empowerment projects. She is an Aspen News Voices Fellow.

    Write comment (0 Comments)

     

     cocoa.jpg


    Theobroma cacao.The cocoa sector in West Africa is facing many well-known problems. That is a fact. And we all acknowledge those problems. Only by joining forces can we solve the challenges and contribute to sustainable growth and development of the cocoa sector. Succeeding in this, will result in increased farmer profitability, economic growth in West-Africa and reduced negative environmental impact.


    About 70% of global supply is produced in West Africa by smallholder farmers. Productivity is low, trees are old and farmers are using old-fashioned methods. Farming efficiency is a huge issue. Agriculture with low productivity is a very important driver of deforestation. Production areas need to be replanted with improved varieties.

    There is a lack of availability of proper fertilizers and other inputs, knowledge on cocoa agronomy and best management practices is lacking. Climate change threatens production, but we can also say that production threatens to contribute to more climate change, through for instance illegal deforestation. And if you look at it this way, the future can look quite grim. However, I am an optimist - and I believe in knowledge sharing and collaboration.


    In Yara, we have put sustainability and farmers at the centre of our business strategy. Not just because it is the nice thing to do, but because it is the wise thing to do. For example, if farmers improve productivity in a manner which destroys the natural resources base, it will not be sustainable over time neither for them nor for us as an input provider. So let us create growth and cocoa sustainability– in a responsible and inclusive way – for our businesses, the farmers and for society at large.


    To succeed in doing this, however, we need to work together. Government buy-in and leadership is absolutely vital. Progress will not be sufficient if companies along the value chain continue to work individually in pursuit of parallel but separate strategies. Real and transformative change will require what Howard Shapiro from Mars has coined “uncommon collaboration” between academia, government, non-government, industry players and farmers in tackling global challenges- and where the cocoa farmer is put first.


    On the picture below, is cocoa farmer Konfe Sidy from Côte d’Ivoire. Through more modern and sustainable methods, he has been able to increase the yields almost ten times. This has enabled him to create a small business, feed his wife and 3 year old daughter as well as his extended family who live with him. He has even build a new house. Of course, this is small scale. But imagine what the impact could be if we aggregate this to thousands of cocoa farmers.


    We must make production of coca more efficient. Producing more with less, meaning more output based on less input. Increased efficiency will improve forests, diversity and cocoa farmer livelihoods in West Africa. I believe we can succeed if there is a sufficient will and we put ourselves in the correct frame of mind. The chocolate industry has already paved the way with CocoaAction. In Yara, we have for a long time recognized that we need look beyond our own sector, broaden our perspective and find ways of working with a range of different partners. We have decided to engage beyond our own interests and contribute to the sustainable cocoa productivity challenge by bringing our unique crop nutrition competence and to form alliances involving partners ranging from UN Environment the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to key companies and organisations in the chocolate industry.

               Africa1.png


    The result so far is a public-private research and development partnership which aims to address critical gaps in the knowledge base required to close cocoa yield gaps and deliver this knowledge to cocoa farmers. I truly believe that this partnership can bring the best of science to tackle the major problems to the service of the smallholders and the cocoa producing countries.


    The time to make cocoa production more sustainable is now. Some of the tools and strategies already exist. Through “uncommon collaboration” we can not only turn cocoa around but also lead the way.


    This week representatives from national agricultural research and extension organizations of the major cocoa producing countries in Africa together with key companies and organizations in the cocoa industry will be gathered in Abidjan. The main purpose is to discuss how science can work together with the chocolate industry players to bring the best science to tackle major problems to the service of the smallholders and the cocoa producing countries. It is all happening in the context of the 7th African Green Revolution Forum. Under the leadership of the Government of Cote d’Ivoire, the 2017 AGRF is shaping up to be the most important agricultural platform on the continent for 2017.


    As Yara, we are ready and prepared to work with others to improve the knowledge base required to close cocoa yield gaps and deliver this knowledge to cocoa farmers – and we know we cannot crack that nut alone.

     

     

     

    Write comment (0 Comments)

     Dr. Kanayo Nwanze.jpg

    Dr. Kanayo Nwanze


    Opinion
    As I settle back in my homeland Nigeria since retiring as the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in March this year, I am reminded of a local saying that when you go to the stream to fetch water, your bucket will only be filled with the water that is yours. No one can take the water that is meant for you. Life will give you what you deserve, nothing more, and nothing less. But first you must walk to the stream, bend down, and dip your bucket.


    This parable inspired the title of my recently released book, A Bucket of Water, that distils lessons and experiences from my 40-year professional career dedicated to agriculture in general, and African agriculture in particular.


    I have witnessed many inspiring changes in Africa over the years. Technologies that enable farmers produce more yield per unit acreage have been developed. Access to markets and financial resources have also improved as has the policy landscape. Additionally, Africa is experiencing unprecedented economic growth with five of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies being African.


    However, this progress is ironical when Africa, rich as it is, is still unable to feed itself - poverty levels remain high and millions go to bed hungry. I see our over-dependence on minerals as the main problem.


    According to the US Geological Survey 2016, Sub- Saharan Africa produces 77 per cent of the world’s platinum metals; 60 per cent of its cobalt (used for batteries and metal alloys); 46 per cent of its natural industrial diamonds; and an abundance of gold, uranium, oil, and gas. Tragically, this immense mineral richness has not benefited the majority
    My vision for Africa’s future is not built on a foundation of extractive industries.

    These riches have not translated into wide-ranging job creation, or social welfare and stability. They have not fed hungry people. They have not reduced poverty.


    I see Africa’s economic growth predicated upon unlocking and fully tapping into the potential of smallholder farmers who make up 70 per cent of our population. When I insisted for many years that small-scale farms were as much businesses as large-scale operations, my views were considered at best romantic and at worst foolish. I am glad to note that the concept of smallholder farms as a business has become commonplace today.

    READ ALSO: OPINION: Ecological farming is key to food security, climate change

    READ ALSO: OPINION: Set for Take off – Kenya’s Agriculture Sector Ready for Increased Investments

    READ ALSO: Opinion: African Heroes and the Superpowers of Agriculture


    Achieving the kind of economic growth that leaves no one behind requires deliberate prioritization of the agricultural sector. In fact, agriculture is the surest path to Africa’s prosperity. For instance, it is well established that GDP growth due to agriculture is at least three times more effective in reducing poverty in resource-poor, low-income countries than growth in other sectors. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated to be 11 times more effective.

    We are richly endowed with what it takes to achieve greatness - ideal climatic conditions which are, unfortunately, changing in devastating ways; large swathes of arable land; huge deposits of water that can be used for irrigation; and, most importantly, the vast potential of the people themselves especially the ingenuity and vigour of our youth. Our women who do most of our farming deserve a special mention. In 2016, I was honoured as the winner of the Inaugural Africa Food Prize which I dedicated to the millions of African women who silently toil to feed their families. I am a strong believer that no nation has been able to transform itself without giving women the same rights and opportunities as men.


    However, as I have said many times before, achieving a continent-wide agricultural transformation, as the foundation for food security and poverty alleviation, requires visionary national and continental leadership. For our continent has all it needs to succeed in the right climate of leadership.


    We laud our leaders’ commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture, and to ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness, in the Malabo Declaration. A lot more still needs to be done. For instance, only eight out of 44 governments in sub-Saharan Africa have kept these promises to invest more in agriculture.


    However, where the resolution has been adopted, and the will is there; where the decisions have been taken, and the actions implemented; the results have been both swift and phenomenal.


    Ethiopia, for example, has reaped huge benefits for the last two decades from visionary leadership and by honouring its development commitments. The government set up the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) to bolster smallholder farmers’ productivity, enhance marketing systems, upgrade the participation of the private sector, increase the volume of irrigated land and curtail the number of households with inadequate food.


    Today, agriculture is Ethiopia's most important sector, accounting for nearly half of the country’s GDP (46.3 per cent), 90 per cent of exports and 85 per cent of the labour force.


    Rwanda is another example where agricultural transformation has spanned land reform, land consolidation, and better access to inputs and extension for smallholders. This has increased the country’s food availability by 150 per cent, reducing chronic malnutrition and stunting significantly, and reducing poverty by 20 per cent in the last 10 years.


    Visionary leadership in agriculture, therefore, demonstrably offers rapid returns. Ethiopia and Rwanda, both among the fastest growing African economies, are good examples of countries that have walked to the stream to fill their buckets.
    Other countries should make the same walk to the river of agricultural opportunities that continues flowing. The landmark African Green Revolution Forum to be hosted in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire by H.E. President Alassane Ouattara, is one step towards the river. At the Forum, global and African leaders will develop actionable plans that will move African agriculture forward.


    Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze is the 2016 winner of the Africa Food Prize and the immediate Former President of the International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD). He is also a Board Member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

     

    Write comment (0 Comments)

    Editor's Pick

    Weekly weather updates

     

    Sign Up

    Sign up to receive our newsletter
    FarmBiz Africa © 2018

    Please publish modules in offcanvas position.