Helping African Female Farmers


Humanitarian and civil organisations emphasise the need for African governments to empower female farmers and the youths to produce more food in order to eliminate hunger and poverty in the continent

By Olu Ojewale  |  Jun. 3, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE African Union, ONE, Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development, ACORD, and ActionAid have made a case for money funds to be given to female and youth farmers in Africa. The group which met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Thursday, May 23, for discussion as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Organisation for African Unity, OAU, noted that only a few African nations have met the 2003 Maputo commitment, which mandated them to invest 10 per cent of their budget in the agricultural sector.

According to a press statement released by the group, only Ethiopia, Niger, Malawi and Cape Verde, have honoured the commitment made at the African Union, AU, conference in 2003, in which the agreement was made. Senegal and Sierra Leone were also commended for their efforts.

Emphasising the importance of such investment in agriculture, the group revealed that studies in several countries including Ethiopia and Malawi had shown that well-invested public funds would stimulate more investment from farmers as well as private sector businesses, and yield high returns. To buttress the point, it disclosed that in 2004, the average contribution of agriculture to the GDP for the 34 countries was 27 per cent, whereas the average budget allocation to agriculture for the countries in the study was only 6.2 per cent. So, given such high rates of returns on investment in the sector, the group called on African governments to identify those areas of public investment that would make farming more profitable.

African female farmers
African female farmers

However, the group lamented that some countries’ budgetary allocations to agriculture had, actually, decreased, and warned, “Unless these are urgently addressed, the potential for agricultural growth as a vehicle for broader economic development is not going to be realised.” Emphasising the point, Sipho Moyo, Africa director, ONE, said studies had shown that every dollar invested in agriculture could bring returns of about $9. She said the impact of agriculture on gross domestic product, GDP, in any country, is twice that of other sectors. “If Africa is to have a future, then we must invest in agriculture, especially in women and the youth. It is the right thing to do,” Moyo said.

Besides, more than two-thirds of African people depend on farming for their livelihoods, which would make investment in the sector one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. Thus, Moyo wants farmers to be properly and adequately catered for because of their importance to the economy. “The proof that agriculture improves lives is all around us. Smallholder farmers, most of whom are women, rely on agriculture to feed their families and earn incomes to support their families. The sole responsibility of governments, in this respect, is simply to put in place policies and public investments that will create an enabling environment that will make agriculture more profitable for these farmers,” the activist said.

Nevertheless, the group has singled out women farmers for commendation for their contribution of 80 to 90 per cent of the food in Africa, even though they own less than two per cent of the land. Africa’s youths contributions were also noted as being part of labour force or as entrepreneurs. The panel discussion, which was part of the main AU summit agenda on youths, agriculture and food security for the future, also addressed policies and inadequate investments militating against small farmers from modernising and improving their agricultural activities.

It was also used to celebrate the contributions and potentials of African farmers, especially the small scale farmers, women farmers and youths who have been helping Africa to overcome hunger and poverty on the continent.

“As Africa celebrates, there would be no better anniversary gift for the continent than to acknowledge and embrace agriculture as the most effective means of empowering families and developing nations. As envisaged in the OAU Charter of 1963, the time has come for Africa to look at agriculture as the best platform for “harnessing the natural and human resources of our continent to the total advancement of our peoples in all spheres of human endeavour.”  The facts show that agriculture works,” the group added.

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