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Why African women matter in sustainable food production - 23 September, 2012.

A SIANI side-event at World Water Week previews a forthcoming book on links between gender equality and agricultural productivity.

Boosting agricultural productivity is the key to food security for Sub-Saharan Africa. For decades, efforts to increase crop yields have focused primarily on men, as heads of households and the ones best positioned to do commercial farming. Yet while these programmes have indeed raised incomes, they have done little to bolster food security – because it is mostly women who grow the food for families.

Those female farmers often toil with inadequate tools and limited supplies, with little control over the land and little decision-making power. What they produce under these conditions is impressive, but they could do much better. Closing the gender gap in agricultural inputs alone, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated, would lift 100–150 million people out of hunger.

A forthcoming book, Transforming Gender Relations in Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa: Promising Approaches, highlights successful approaches to empowering small-scale women farmers and, in the process, strengthening food security and livelihoods.

At World Water Week, the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI), which is publishing the book, hosted a side-event with two African women whose work with farmers is featured in the book: Violet Shivutse, of GROOTS Kenya, who has worked closely with farmers, and Dr. Akinyi Nzioki, of CLEAR in Kenya, who has campaigned for legal reforms to secure women’s land rights.

“The case studies described in our book show how improving gender equity can contribute directly to increasing agricultural productivity,” says Melinda Fones Sundell, co-author of the book and a senior research fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute, which hosts SIANI.

“Our hope is that by sharing these successful approaches, and presenting them in a cohesive framework, we will encourage others to replicate and adapt these methodologies in their own contexts,” Sundell adds. “At the same time, we hope that seeing the benefits of empowering women – not just for the women themselves, but their families, communities, and relationships between the sexes – we can raise awareness amongst policymakers, donor agencies, and stakeholders at all levels of the importance of this work.”



23 September, 2012.