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Empower Women to transform Agriculture

The availability of credit to smallholder women farmers has been identified as one of the keys to a revolutionary increment in Agricultural production.
This is borne out of the fact that smallholder women farmers’ access to equal allocation of land, labour and capital with men in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia led to agricultural production increments between 10 to 20 percent more than that of their male counterparts.
Annina Lubbock, Senior Technical Advisor on Gender and Household Food Security of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) disclosed this during a panel discussion on Gender in Agriculture as part of activities marking an international conference organised by IFAD in Rome.
The conference, themed ‘Enabling Poor Rural People to Overcome Poverty’ was organised by IFAD in the wake of the global food crisis and financial predicament that has hit the world.
It served as a platform for bringing together agricultural experts of diverse background from 164 countries to brainstorm on issues ranging from problems encountered by smallholder farmers, the impact of climatic change and the land tenure system on agriculture to the challenges of promoting food security in the world.
Ms Lubbock said given that a one percent increment in a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of an increment in agricultural production impacts on poverty four times as that of an increment derived from a non-agricultural source, developing countries stand to gain a lot by empowering women to step up agricultural production.
She said the present practise of giving micro-credit to women was not sufficient to effect a radical change in women’s participation in agriculture since the amount involved is so small that it is more likely to be diverted to cater for the health and nutritional needs of family members by buying drugs and food.
“However, if women receive big loans from banks, they can buy machinery and other agricultural inputs to boost food production”.
She called for a holistic approach to addressing the issues that hinder the efficiency of women’s participation in agriculture such as a huge domestic work load wrought about by the non-availability of water and health services.
“There is the need to free up time for women. If women would spend less time fetching water and caring for sick family members, they would have more time for agricultural activities”, Ms Lubbock said.
“Interventions such as the provision of a bore-hole or a better village water supply system and the provision of the appropriate health facilities and services would go a long way to enhance women’s participation in agriculture”, she emphasized.
David Stevenson, director of Policy Planning and Strategy Division of the World Food Programme (WFP) said of the 300 million small holder farmers in Africa, 70 percent are women.
Speaking at a round table discussion on the topic “Food price volatility and how to help smallholder farmers manage risks and uncertainty”, Mr Stevenson lamented that smallholder farmers are often marginalised and at the mercy of natural disasters such as earthquakes, droughts and floods and usually account for 50 percent of people needing food assistance in the event of any disaster.
He said in view of the chronic need for food assistance, especially among the rural poor who are mostly smallholder farmers, WFP is shifting its strategy from food assistance to tackling the root cause of hunger.
He identified one of the causes of hunger as poor remuneration for smallholder farmers, saying, “returns to farmers are low hence they are constantly in a poverty trap” However, tremendous investments such as the school feeding program being promoted in some parts of Africa exist for farmers to sell their produce at economic prices.
He said part of WFP’s new strategy was to help promote market friendly solutions, adding that, the programme was currently looking at how payments for agricultural produce could be made to the 70 percent women farmers currently working in agriculture.

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