Women empowerment key to agricultural transformation

AGRF 2020

Agriculture has the potential to feed the African continent come 2050 while at the same time ensuring that its activities are environmentally friendly.

With climate changes continuing to affect the African continent, it is important that food production and the environmental factors work together. There have been isolated cases of success but still this is not enough to ensure a complete agricultural transformation.

Factors such as lack of investments and lack of coordination on the part of various stakeholders are affecting the overall food production. Incorporating the right food production systems will ensure that the available resources such as land can produce the maximum amount of food.

In this regard, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has made agriculture land use and the implementation of policies that improve on agriculture production at the center of their projects.

“We have been working in eight African countries in the last year and we have invested over $4.1 billion  in programs that support agricultural transformation whilst taking care of the environment”, said Dr. Naoko Ishii, CEO, GEF.

Bearing in mind that subsistence agriculture is not sustainable to achieve food security, commercialisation of land resources and the improvement of infrastructure are vital if the continent is to feed itself.

“If we do not turn agriculture into a business, then it will be unsustainable, and we will not achieve food security”, said Hon Eyasu Abraha Alle, State Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Resources, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has made tremendous strides in agricultural transformation and has been able to make use of the available land resources.

“In my country, Ethiopia, we realised that to achieve agricultural transformation, political will is important”, said Hon. Abraha Alle. “That is why our agricultural agenda is led by our Prime Minister”, he added.

Similarly, evidence from Asia show that agriculture is the key that has unlocked economic growth whereas in Africa, which has a huge percentage of arable land, has not been able to harness the return on investment.

The continent is currently being affected by the Fall armyworm and soon it may face a crisis from the South armyworm, landslides and climate changes.

To avert this and ensure that the land available can achieve food security, financial investment is critical in facilitating research on sustainable agricultural methods and to improve on technologies.

“We need to focus on irrigation systems instead of agriculture being solely dependent on rain, incorporate science-based technology, extension systems in farming so as to turn agriculture into a business that thrives,” said Hon. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister of State of Agriculture, Government of India.

“Simple technologies that produce high yields such as the incorporating nitrogen fixing bacteria on soya beans farming can improve yields over 15 times, said Dr. Usha Zehr, Director and Chief Technology Officer, Maharastra Hybrid Seeds Company.

“We should also not forget that gene editing is the innovation that carries the future of agriculture,” added Dr. Zehr.

While technology is important to agricultural transformation it is important to understand that at the heart of agricultural revolution are women and youth.

“Women comprise 83 percent of the agricultural labor force, but they are often left out and struggle with constraints including lack of finance though bank credits and insurance and land ownership,” said Ms. Diana Louise Ofwona, Regional Director, UN Women Office for West and Central Africa.

To address the issues of ending hunger and poverty and curbing malnutrition, women are at the center of the equation and can bring about a tremendous return on investment through agriculture.

Four basic pillars will be critical therefore in empowering women including government ensuring that women are able to own land,  have access to technology, information through education and access to market.

“Therefore, unless we look for bold and affirmative actions to empower women, then we will be doing nothing”,