Agriculture, as it is currently practiced, consumes a lot of women’s time, keeping them away from other productive activities, First Lady, Jeannette Kagame said during a High-level Breakfast on Women in Agribusiness at the African Green Revolution Forum which concluded yesterday in Kigali.
The objective of the session was to highlight challenges, constraints and opportunities faced by female smallholder farmers in transforming from subsistence to commercial agriculture, and advance a concrete action agenda around investing in women in agribusiness in Africa.
“As a sector known for its high returns on investment, and its ability to create more industries, we cannot afford not to mechanize agriculture and embrace innovation more effectively and efficiently, so that women not only save time and energy but are also able to create additional industries, participate in the value chain and tap into emerging markets thanks to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement,” Mrs.Kagame observed.
Participants - High-Level Breakfast on Women in Agribusiness
According to statistics presented during the session, agriculture in Africa is poised to remain one of the most important economic sectors, accounting for around 25% of the continent’s GDP.
Despite this, 41% of people living in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.25 per day (2015), with the majority of these being dependent on agricultural activity for their livelihoods.
To achieve its potential, smallholder agriculture must be a central investment focus as nearly 60% of smallholder farmers in Africa are women. If they are given the same access to productive resources as men, women are able to increase the yields on their farms by 20-30% and reducing hunger by 12- 17%.
Citing the 2016 World Bank ‘Poverty in a Rising Africa’ Report, she said that nearly one in four households in Africa are headed by women.
“This forum rightfully calls on all of us to look, in greater detail, at the important role that women farmers play in Africa in addition to the heavy burden they often play as sole breadwinners in female-headed households,” the First Lady said.
“These women indeed deserve to be provided with the type of holistic support that takes into account their socio-economic needs to enable them to lift themselves, and their families, out of poverty, and to open up a new world of opportunities for them.
Cathy Rugasira Rusagara, Managing Director of MaceGlobal, an agribusiness and logistics company based in Uganda and Kenya said “We know that they [female farmers] produce over 70% of our food, and we therefore know that we cannot have agriculture transformation unless we actually focus on supporting and addressing all the challenges they face.
“[They have] no access to seed, no access to credit, they can’t till their land, they don’t have access to mechanisation tools. They go to the field, they have children on their backs,... you can’t till more than one acre,” she said.
Honourable Lord Paul Boateng, moderating the High-Level Breakfast on Women in Agribusiness, organised on the sidelines of the African Green Revolution Forum
Isugi Marie Chantal, Chief Commercial Officer at Garden Fresh, a company which deals with production and export of fresh fruits, and vegetables including French beans (green beans) and broccoli, said that it started with exporting six tonnes of vegetables per month in 2016, but now, its export volume has grown to between 15 and 18 tonnes per week.
“The problem we face is that we are still producing less than the market needs. There is need to increase farm productivity, and expand the vegetable production area,” Isugi said calling for effective use of irrigation technologies and advanced farming equipment to ensure sustainable production.
The Minister of Agriculture of Côte d’Ivoire, Mamadou Coulibaly Sangafowa, said that staple food crops are dominated by women at a rate of 90 percent in his country, and they engage in the entire agricultural value chain from production at farm level to commercialisation of farm produce.
“In line with food security programme, we annually allocate budget to freely provide women with improved and quality seeds, which contributes to increasing their productivity,” he said.