Supporting women in agric; Key to food security

African-farm-Sudan-food-s-008Women contribute largely to agriculture by providing labour for planting, weeding, harvesting and processing resulting in 70 per cent of food crop production in the country.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), on the average, women represent 43 per cent of the world’s agricultural labour force and 47 per cent of the global fisheries labour force.

Apart from labouring on the farm, women carry the foodstuffs, occasionally with babies strapped at their backs. Others sit at the back of articulated vehicles or trucks to transport food from the farmgates in the remotest areas to the marketing centres in the cities.

Women are seen in the hot sun in the cities and towns, selling foodstuffs to serve the people, and also to earn their livelihoods.

In the fisheries sector, women are not exempted as they are involved in the smoking and processing of fish for consumption.

In a country with agriculture as the backbone of its economy, Ghanaian women actually make it happen with their relentless efforts by ensuring food security.

Statistics from the UN Women indicate that the majority of women, who depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods, make up over a quarter of the total world population.

In developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force, and produce, process and prepare much of the food available, thereby giving them primary responsibility for food security.

Various challenges

However, despite these contributions and prominence in agricultural development, women in the sector are discriminated against and they face various challenges.

The challenges range from the concerns of less access to land, less access to improved seeds, appropriate technologies, access to social services, to the exploitation by middlemen (market queens), less access to extension officers, storage, markets and yields.

Access to facilities including the government’s subsidised fertilisers and the agricultural loans are also headaches for women in the agricultural sector.

According to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s (MoFA’s) 2013 Annual Progress Report, women reaped minimal benefits from investment in the agriculture sector.

Development plan

To bridge the gap and ensure that the needs and priorities of both men and women are addressed for agricultural development, the government, through the MoFA, has revised the national gender and agriculture development strategy.

The document, intended to enhance equity in agriculture service delivery and access to input, also sought to address the current agricultural challenges and ensure gender equity.

The policy, which is a revision of the existing strategy crafted in 2001, is to address gender-related concerns in the agricultural sector and mainstream gender concerns into all planning, and implementation and monitoring, as well as address challenges such as climate change and declining soil fertility.

Access to land

For instance, issues such as access to land and information on land rights and tenure security are expected to be addressed in the document.

With nine strategic objectives, the policy would strengthen institutions’ capacity for gender responsive policies, programmes, projects, budgets and monitoring and evaluation within the MoFA.

A Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture in charge of Livestock, Dr Hannah Bissiw, who launched the report in Accra last Wednesday, said: “Gender mainstreaming is an important strategy in the activities of MoFA. It must be recognised that gender mainstreaming is a dominant factor in agricultural activities of MoFA since 2011.”

As signatory to international conventions, protocols and agreements to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, the government of Ghana has, therefore, put its commitment into action.

Increased food security

With this framework, it is expected that women’s participation in the sector would increase and enhance food security in the country.

In fact, it is said that if the world’s women farmers had the same access to resources as men, 150 million people could be lifted out of poverty, according to the FAO.

“Women are the priority. The majority of smallholder farmers in Africa are women and, in urban areas, you’re primarily looking at women-led households. So we can’t solve hunger if we don’t have gender-sensitive programmes that address access to opportunities for women, whether it’s through education or tools for cooking, like solar-powered stoves,” says Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme.

“The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have gender equality and women’s empowerment at their core, and include a target to ‘double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women’. Indeed, rural women are critical to the success of almost all of the 17 SDGs.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said.

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