KIGALI, July 16 (Xinhua) — African women in agriculture have been marginalized in most programs geared towards agricultural transformation in Africa which puts gender on the periphery of the continent’s growth, says Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia.
Sirleaf, who is also the chair of Empowerment of Women in Agriculture (EWA) initiative, made the remarks on Saturday during a meeting on women empowerment in agriculture on the sidelines of the ongoing 27th African Union (AU) summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Rwanda hosts the summit from July 10 to 18 dubbed “2016: African Year of Human Rights, with particular focus on the Rights of Women.”
“Women play a major role in agricultural growth in Africa, yet they face persistent obstacles and economic constraints. It’s time for us to create ways for women to contribute their skills and talents to national development,” said President Sirleaf.
She noted that when African heads of state launched their continental development plan, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), in 2001, women’s organizations banded together to protest the initiative’s seeming lack of sensitivity to gender issues.
“Women’s organizations including Empowerment of Women in Agriculture (EWA) initiative, and the Gender is my Agenda Campaign Network (GIMAC), the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) demanded that NEPAD’s proponents ensure that women were not left out of the social and economic benefits promised by the initiative,” Sirleaf added.
According to Macky Sall, President of Senegal, if women are given equal access to land, seeds, as their male counterparts, Africa can reduce hunger and poverty on the continent and the whole world.
“This situation must change as Africa spearheads efforts to transform Africa’s agricultural landscape,” he added.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) report indicates that women make up almost 50 percent of the agricultural labour force in Sub-Saharan Africa and a total of 62 percent of economically active women in Africa work in agriculture, making it the largest employer of women.
In some countries, such as Rwanda, Malawi and Burkina Faso, more than 90 percent of economically active women are involved in agriculture.
Akinwumi Adesina, president of AfDB said that agriculture in Africa is poised to remain one of the most important economic sectors, accounting for around 25 percent of the continent’s GDP and empowering women in agriculture will enable the continent address hunger and poverty among Africans.
“While African women farmers are essentially feeding the continent, they have remained largely in the background, calling little attention to themselves and receiving little help. The African Development Bank has embarked on a campaign to support women in agriculture through funding and agricultural trainings,” he added.
Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, AU commissioner for rural economy and agriculture, stated that African leaders have committed to help African women farmers under the 2003 Maputo Declaration (the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme), which is intended to increase support for smallholder farmers.
“We must work together with the private sector to close the wide gap in wages and agricultural yields between men and women if Africa is to achieve full economic transformation,” She added.
AU believes that the role of women is largely limited to the unskilled parts of production whereby few own the land and often do not control the income generated from the sale of agricultural produce.
In 2012, during heads of state summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, African leaders unveiled the strategy that will see more women engage in agriculture from 2017-2026. Enditem