Western Africa

Interview with Sounkoura Adetonah, Gender Specialist, IITA-Benin on female farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (International Women’s Day 2018)

IITA staff show support for “pushing for progress” for women’s parity during the IWD 2018 celebration

1. Today is International Women’s Day. How would you assess the role and progress of female farmers in sub-Saharan Africa?

Nowadays, the integration of gender and especially the consideration of women is a very important, and sometimes key aspect, in inclusive agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 78% of women in sub-Saharan Africa are economically active in agriculture, compared to only 64% of men. According to the FAO (1995), women are responsible for more than 50% of agricultural food production in the world and sub-Saharan is no exception. Moreover, women now constitute the majority of smallholder farmers, providing most of the labor and managing most farming activities on a daily basis. Nevertheless, a complex set of rights, obligations, and considerations reflect the social norms, which identify the prescriptions and the division of labor between men and women in agriculture value chains.

2. What has changed despite the strides research institutes have made in introducing various farming techniques and easy to use technologies?

In spite of the strides of research institutes at national and international levels, women often have very limited access to resources, innovations, and to profitable channels. They also have difficulty engaging in more lucrative activities. With limited financial resources, improved technologies are very expensive and not available for them. Since men have more access to information and inputs compared to women, they are more likely to adopt a technology than women.

3. What can be done to improve the lot of the rural farmers?

All social groups must have access to the same opportunities, access to markets for inputs and products. With the introduction of an inclusive funding model, women can have greater access to technology and credit through their organizations. Direct and indirect jobs will be created including those related to services (agricultural advice, use of agricultural machinery, management of cooperatives, brokerage service, information system and insurance) and the empowerment of women will be strengthened.

4. What is your perception of African women farmers?

African women farmers are key contributors to economic growth and global food security, but they still face many challenges. There are significant gender disparities in the way that key resources essential for success in agriculture are distributed across Africa. Access to land, inputs, assets, markets, information and knowledge, time, decision-making authority, and income still present a challenge for women in the sector. The limited access to agricultural extension services prevents many women from adopting the technologies that would help them increase their yields. For example, an estimated yield gap between men and women of 20 to 30% has been observed, and this hinders the growth of the agricultural sector in many developing countries. Also, female farmers receive only 5% of all agricultural extension services, and only 15% of the world’s extension agents are women. In addition, only 10% of total aid received by the agricultural and fisheries sectors goes to women. Women generally use lower levels of technology because of difficulties in access, cultural restrictions on use, or regard for women’s crops and livestock as low research priorities. In terms of the training and education, African women are less educated and trained.

5. What does International Women’s Day (8 March) mean to you and an average woman?

International Women’s Day (IWD) (8 March) is a great day for all women. It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The campaign theme for this year is #PressforProgress, International Women’s Day is not country, group, or organization specific. It belongs to all groups collectively, everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity.

Happy Women’s Day to all women!

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