Agricultural development not geared to assist women

Many men in Africa could go to school thanks to the support their mothers were able to provide through income earned by farming.

Agricultural development not geared to assist women
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This was despite the fact that women in Africa had far less access to agricultural support and productive resources compared to men, said Ambassador Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania.

Mongella, the first president of the Pan-African Parliament, was keynote speaker at the Agricultural Investment, Gender and Land in Africa conference, held in Stellenbosch this week.

“Land is the key to dignity, development and investment,” said Mongella, who lamented the fact that few women in Africa owned land.

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She said agricultural development programmes in Africa designed to provide support to smallholder and women farmers in particular were doomed to fail as long as women did not own the land on which they farmed. This deprived them of the ability to make decisions about how the land should be used.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), only 15% of land in Africa belonged to women.

Tobias Takavarasha, FAO representative for South Africa, who also addressed the conference, said about 842 million people in the world did not have access to enough food. “This harsh reality shows that the root causes of hunger and poverty are not being properly addressed.”

He said more investment was needed in agriculture, especially investment that would benefit the most marginalised.

“Women, due to the structural disadvantages that they face, do not have access to the same kind of support as men,” said Takavarasha.

When women controlled additional income, they spent more on food, health and education for their children compared to when men controlled household finances, he added.