The crucial role of women in African agriculture
The greatest challenges of the 21st century are the increasing demand on food, water and energy from a growing population, and climate change. Agriculture and smallholders are central to both, perhaps nowhere more so than in Africa.
Therefore, opportunities for women in agriculture and agribusiness lie in understanding the challenges of tomorrow and positioning themselves to meet these challenges. These opportunities are as diverse as the women in the sector.
Currently, smallholders manage only 12% of all agricultural land, but produce more than 80%, in value terms, of the world’s food (FAO, 2015). The latest estimates show that feeding a world population of 9,1 billion people by 2050 will require raising overall food production by about 70% (FAO, 2015).
In developing countries, production will need to almost double. This means significant increases in the production of several key commodities. Annual grain production, for instance, will have to grow by almost one billion tons.
At the same time, efforts to achieve food security will need to fulfil environmental and social sustainability objectives. However, in addition to the opportunities that exist for women in food production, vast opportunities exist beyond traditional food and fibre, as there is a parallel need for feed and fuel.
A more enabling environment should be created for women to fully and more efficiently participate in agricultural markets. This has to involve removing the legal and cultural barriers to ownership and access to land, information and extension services, inputs and other resources. In addition, more women need to participate further along the value chain.
More women are also required as processors, wholesalers and retailers. In addition, women are needed in agricultural education and training, research and extension services, as well as supply chain logistics, technology, finance, boardrooms, and policy-making and implementation. – Siyanda Sishuba.