Closing the gender gap in agriculture: Which way, Africa?

Working in the maize field in Malawi

A Malawian woman works in her maize field. We need to close the gender gap in agriculture to boost Africa’s agricultural productivity (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Over 70% of people in sub-Saharan Africa depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. In sub-Saharan Africa, over 60% of employed women work in the agricultural sector and a significant number of them are smallholder farmers. Thus, it may be rightly said that African women are the backbone of the continent’s agriculture and nutrition.

However, despite the pivotal role that women play in Africa’s agriculture sector, two recent flagship reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Bank show that a gender gap exists in agriculture, with rural women farmers facing a number of constraints not experienced by their male counterparts.

The reports provide evidence that empowering women farmers and increasing their access to land, inputs, information, credit and farming technologies can lead to increased agricultural productivity and food security.

The Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011 report on women in agriculture provides evidence that if rural women in developing countries had the same access to land, technology, credit, education and markets as men did, yields on women’s farms could be increased by 20–30%. This would result in an increase in agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5–4% which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17%, or 100–150 million.

The World Bank’s World Development Report 2012 on gender equality and development observes that greater gender equality can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation and make institutions more representative.

These two reports both bring to the fore the urgent need to close the gender gap in agriculture in order to boost agricultural productivity and ensure food security.

But what steps can African countries take to empower women farmers and bring about agricultural transformation, thereby ensuring that Africa can feed Africa? How can we bring agricultural science and innovation to bear on food security, improved nutrition, better health and sustainable development for the continent?

At the macro level, African governments need to remain committed to meeting the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) targets of raising agricultural productivity by at least 6% per year and public investment in agriculture by 10% in order to achieve agriculture-led socioeconomic growth.

This will necessitate increased investment in agricultural research, science, technology and innovation, the engines that will drive the continent forward towards increased productivity, enhanced food and nutrition security and better health for all.

National agriculture and land policies need to be gender responsive (acknowledging that gender differences exist) as well as gender transformative (committed to bringing about equity in gender relations). Governments also need to realize that development policies relating to agriculture are likely to influence men and women farmers differently.  Therefore, agriculture policy recommendations aimed at improving the sector should ensure that women farmers are not disadvantaged and that there is gender equity between men and women farmers.

At the program and project level, there should be greater attention to gender in the design, implementation and monitoring of development programs and projects aimed at improving livelihoods through agricultural interventions. There is also need for greater accountability in projects and programs with regard to the achievement of gender-related outcomes.

The time is now. We must place gender firmly on the agenda for agricultural transformation in Africa, with women farmers – and their empowerment – at the heart of the agricultural agenda for Africa.

Blog post by Tezira Lore, one of the AASW6 social reporters

10 thoughts on “Closing the gender gap in agriculture: Which way, Africa?

  1. Pingback: Gender Issues in Agriculture Innovative Systems | Science on the Land

  2. Thanks Tezira for this interesting post. I’m happy to know both reports – FAO & WB – released the importance of gender gap reducing for boosting agricultural development. The report of FAO has set an increase of 20-30% in productivity. But, I’m still sceptical about separate women emporwerment from the men one for productivity boosting. Indeed, for many centuries women have been involved by men in their production specially for seeding, planting and haversting. Then, remove women now would be very difficult and almost impossible even with women agreement who were culturally linked and under men.
    However, i do know something is possible to raise this major constraint and empower women. Indeed, most of the time in rural areas, women are specialized in some important crops for food security and nutrition. Then, agricultural policies will target these crops for women emporwerment without forgetting crops mainly produced by men. Thus, men will be willing to engage women to benefit of empowement in order to improve their livelihoods they know they are in charge of.

  3. Reblogged this on The Agro-Youth Centre and commented:
    ” ……..if rural women in developing countries had the same access to land, technology, credit, education and markets as men did, yields on women’s farms could be increased by 20–30%. This would result in an increase in agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5–4% which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17%, or 100–150 million”…. Now is the time to close the gender gap in agriculture

  4. Reblogged this on Read Spread Know and commented:
    In her blogpost for AASW6 (the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week), Tezira Lore, a AASW6 social reporters writes: “The time is now. We must place gender firmly on the agenda for agricultural transformation in Africa, with women farmers – and their empowerment – at the heart of the agricultural agenda for Africa.”
    Read the whole blog for her story!

  5. There is no one definition of “empowerment.” I use it to me increased control of the income women generate, especially at the family level. There is a tendency for men to take over women’s agricultural enterprises when they become more profitable, such as dairy and poultry, leaving women with the work, but less incentive to improve. It is still difficult for poor rural families to discuss intra-household decision-making and income control, but women usually note that their husbands are not aware of their need for cash to meet family needs.

  6. It is interesting report that gives great information for policy makers, researchers etc.
    Researchers in the agriculture sector should always think about gender equality and gender equity for the sake of successes in the sector.

  7. Pingback: Closing the gender gap in agriculture: Which way, Africa? | LEARN SHARE CHANGE

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