Women’s key role in agricultural production emphasized

Date: Friday, October 24, 2014

African leaders called for greater investment in women in order to increase agricultural production and improve livelihoods, at a three-day Sharefair on Rural Women’s Technologies to Improve Food Security, Nutrition and Productive Farming.

H. E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission, UN Women’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, and other dignitaries attend the Exhibition Walk at the Sharefair Agricultural Technologies Exhibition Stands in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: UN Women/Christian Mulumba.

Held in Nairobi, Kenya to coincide with the International Day of Rural Women on 15 October and World Food Day on 16 October, the exhibition was organized jointly by UN Women, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC). It highlighted opportunities to invest in technologies that support rural women, with approximately 100 technologies from 14 countries in the region displayed.

Her Excellency Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union, opened the event by noting that women contribute significantly to household investments, community resilience, national economic growth and the vibrancy of regional economies.

She said women play a predominant role in African agriculture. They stand out as pillars of economic growth, especially when it comes to agriculture and agribusiness, which dominate rural economies throughout Africa, Ms. Tumusiime said.

UN Women Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, Christine Musisi, challenged governments and financial institutions in the region to prioritize support for female farmers through policies, funding and programming — an investment she said will accelerate agricultural growth while addressing food security.

Ms. Musisi noted that women are central to all aspects of agriculture and off-farm activities in their communities. Despite this, their efforts are often hampered by their lack of access to productive resources, technologies, services and markets.

High-level policy discussions and panels with regional and national government officials, and other sector leaders, took place concurrently with the exhibitions. These highlighted efforts on gender-sensitive agricultural and nutrition policies; identification of promising technologies and addressing the constraints to scaling up innovations.

Other key messages that came out of the Sharefair include:

  • On average, women make up about 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Evidence indicates that if these women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 per cent, raising total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 per cent. In turn, this would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 per cent.
  • Women are major producers of food, earners of household income and custodians of knowledge, yet their efforts are often hampered by their lack of access to productive resources, technologies, services and markets.
  • Despite the role women play in agriculture, they are constrained by their lack of involvement in decision-making and access to finances.  
  • Empowered women farmers can increase their income, develop a stable rural livelihood and contribute to ensuring food security. However, true empowerment of women should move beyond livelihoods to wealth creation and business leadership in agriculture.
  • Appropriate technologies for women are needed to increase food production and reduce post-harvest losses. This will in turn improve income.
  • Land ownership is central to women’s empowerment and success in agriculture in Africa.
  • There is a need to re-engage Africa’s youth in agriculture and agribusiness, as they are the future sustainers of Africa’s agriculture industry.
  • The continent has the capacity and innovative ideas, but requires the right policies to enable the private sector to take serious initiative in food production.

Four awards were also presented to young innovators from various institutions. The technologies included:

  • A mobile phone application for livestock extension services;
  • Growing mushrooms using available agricultural waste material such as maize cobs;
  • Portable testing equipment for aflotoxin, a toxin produced by certain fungi; and
  • Farmland ownership mapping software

Other prominent participants in the Sharefair included Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON); Fred Segor, Principal Secretary in Kenya’s State Department of Livestock; Hon. Jacqueline Amongin, Member of Parliament of Uganda and representative to the Pan African Parliament; and Dr. Luca Alinovi, FAO Country Representative in Kenya.