Written by Frank Khumalo
Africa urgently needs to find ways of scaling up the involvement of women in various agricultural value chains if the continent is to reduce poverty among its smallholder farmers, Malawi’s Principal Secretary for Gender, Dr. Mary Shawa has said.
Speaking at an international conference on Gender in Lilongwe, Dr. Shawa said the African agriculture sector can only achieve its full potential if the important role played by women in agricultural value chains was acknowledged, appreciated and supported.
“While value addition to crops in our countries remains a problem, the role of women in it remains very minimal. We need a systematic approach in training and building the capacity of women in both agricultural production and the value chain process”, said Dr. Shawa, adding that loan schemes have to be tailor made to help women take an active role in agri-value chain.
The five day conference, which was organized by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), brings together organizations from Kenya, Zambia and Malawi. Participants include practitioners and researchers working on gender and agricultural value chains to facilitate the identification of common ground, and learning and knowledge sharing of successful approaches in strengthening gender in agriculture value chains.
“In Malawi, women are very active in the production of the crops but the marketing and value addition is left to men. We have to let our women get involved in this whole process because only by doing this, will we be able to move our families out of poverty” said Dr. Shawa.
Malawi’s Principal Secretary for Agriculture and Food Security, Dr. Jeffrey Luhanga, said at the same meeting that there was need for African countries to put more political will in empowering women to take an active part in the agricultural value chain.
“Women are the largest producers of crops and that is why they need more responsibilities in agri-value chain. The role of women in development is increasing and the same should be the case in the Agriculture value chain. If we do not put concerted efforts into value addition, we are exporting jobs to those countries that will add value to our crops. That is why we need more involvement of women,” said Luhanga.
AGRA’s Program Officer for Gender and Agriculture, Margaret Kroma, noted that there is need for a better understanding of differentiated priorities in agricultural production within farming households and along the value chains.
“AGRA believes that smallholder farmers must be at the heart of its transformation agenda, with practical local knowledge and skills being augmented by the products of agricultural research”, Dr. Kroma said. “Smallholders need reliable access to improved seed – robust, well adapted and higher yielding varieties. They need integrated soil health management agronomic practices to get the most from their improved seed, ready access to efficient markets for their produce and affordable credit.”
The conference aims to strengthen the capacities of AGRA grantees to examine gender issues and proactively integrate gender components into value chain analysis, project development and implementation.
Women producers and rural-entrepreneurs have significant potential to transform agricultural economies and drive growth.
Building needed capacities to support them translates potential to substantive achievement of Africa’s green revolution goals in Southern Africa and beyond.