By Anthea Taylor
When it comes to agriculture and farming in Africa, women have played a large role in shaping the future. As the continent moves forward, many believe that women are the key to transforming agriculture.
The exciting prospect of realigning the focus of agriculture in Africa to be on women means that there are going to new ideas and thoughts and innovations!
If you are venturing into the agricultural field, this is very exciting news!
One woman at a time
Kenyan fruit crops are currently earning an impressive high of ZAR41 per kilogram, and Zimbabwean farmers are no less profitable at ZAR42,12. South Africa’s most profitable crop fetches an impossible ZAR224, 15 per kilogram, one of many signs that Southern Africa’s agricultural industry is booming despite passing droughts in pockets of the region.
Those numbers are growing thanks to a thriving export market, wealth of rich soil, and favourable currency conversions. Women make up a third of the industry’s employment, and changemakers are leading the charge.
Nonku Britton-Masekela is one of them. Her meagre R100, 000 investment became a sustainable pilot project that turned her neighbours into business partners. The many keen thinkers working her land allowed her to use intercropping to keep pests at bay.
Limpopo farmer, Mahlatse Matlakana, is another believer in the South African concept of ubuntu. She donates a portion of her green pepper crops to her neighbours and employs purely from within her community. She also sells to key wholesalers across the country, nourishing the national economy and her own bank account.
Nairobi’s Dr Rahma Adam is disrupting African agriculture on a grander scale. She hopes to enhance local gender democracy in Malawi, Kenya, and Mozambique. These regions are as prone to sexism as the western world is, so she’s researching and enhancing gender relations during agricultural production and marketing.
Her approach is a holistic one built around work relationships. She believes rural women have a crucial role to play in sub-saharan farming. Gender parity is closing in Southern Africa’s nations while export profits soar thanks to crashing currency values.
Profits and beyond
Africa’s biomes and cities are packed together closely, giving you rural scenery a hop and a skip away from major urban centres.
Mapaseka Dlamini prefers skyscrapers to mountains, so her Green Sky Rooftop Garden grows a large portion of her nation’s gourmet greens using hydroponic systems right inside the metropolis.
Sub-saharan Africa’s urban growth rates are double the world average, so city-based agriculture is quickly becoming the norm. Local produce is heavily in demand, having grown to US%10.6 billion in revenue 2018.
Farming can be a lucrative profession and, therefore, a way for female entrepreneurs to close the gender pay gap. Becoming a female entrepreneur can also bring two incomes to a household.
All this while you are still able to add to the productivity on the continent!
Policies in some countries are making sure that women have more access to land in order start laying the ground work for women to earn more.
If you are looking to go into farming, consider whether you will be given government support in order to buy your land.
Farming does require a certain amount of skills and knowledge. As women become trained in different farming techniques, the agricultural production on the continent will improve.
A lot of female farmers in Africa, however, still have limited access to land, this gives them limited access to markets. In order to give themselves a stronger bargaining position, many women across the continent are creating cooperatives. This is allowing them to pool resources and get better access to financing.
The benefits that are evident in giving more women access to agriculture and farming is gaining momentum continent wide. This promises to increase government and development agency support in a lot of countries.
Most importantly, though, women need to be included in the conversation about the future of agriculture in Africa. This can really come from including women in management position in agricultural organisations.
The gender gap in African agriculture is in the spotlight, so governments are making policy changes to support a more diverse workforce while NGOs work on encouraging female agriculture and entrepreneurship. Kenya’s affirmative action policy gives 30% of its ministry tenders to female agricultural leaders.
South Africa’s approach is more technical. It offers technology to support productivity in female farming, diversifying livelihoods while enhancing revenue. Zimbabwe’s Agri-tech offers ZAR47 million in grants.
Africa’s many policies and offerings represent an industry-wide trend. To stimulate sluggish economies, nations must encourage their most profitable trades. If Southern Africa has one asset to spur growth, it’s rich soil, a feature that’s only enhanced by its crop-friendly climates.
Women have a crucial role to play in agriculture, and Sub-Saharan African governments are clearing room for their growth in the sector. As the backbone of the rural economy, female farmers are closing gender pay gaps, but as nurturers, they’re nourishing the industry as much as they are the land.