Africa's face of agriculture is female

/

Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver. However, the potential for this is far from being made exhaustive use of, one reason being that women face considerable difficulties in their economic activities. The organisation AWAN Afrika seeks to change this state of affairs.

 

Participant of the CARI Training Project in Suru/Nigeria. Photo: GIZ / Thomas Imo
Participant of the CARI Training Project in Suru/Nigeria. Photo: GIZ / Thomas Imo

Beatrice Gakuba

Beatrice Gakuba is the executive director of the African Women Agribusiness Network Afrika (AWAN-AFRIKA), a nonprofit focused on providing women-owned agribusinesses access to sustainable markets, trade information, innovative financing solutions and technologies. After a 20-year career in poverty alleviation and integrated development with various United Nations Agencies and other Development organizations, Beatrice Gakuba returned to her native Rwanda in 2004. She then started one of Rwanda’s most thriving businesses in horticulture and has been hailed by international leaders as an example of the potential success of entrepreneurship in economically revitalizing economies in African countries. Beatrice Gakuba is Food security and Nutrition Expert, Senior Content Adviser in Agribusiness, Social innovator, and a seasoned entrepreneur. She is very passionate about issues related to women in Agribusiness and economic empowerment.

AWAN

This article first appeared in Rural21 Vol. 54 No. 2/2020 on: Employment for rural Africa and is part of a media cooperation between weltohnehunger.org and Rural 21.

 

If you are driving along any major highway in Africa, you will not miss women crowding at bus stops, farm produce in their hands, seeking possible buyers for their wares.  Unmistakably so, because women control a sizeable portion of trade in agricultural produce in Africa, be it in production, where, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 50 per cent of the entire agricultural labour force is made up of women, growing nearly 70 per cent of Africa’s food and therefore contributing about 21 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

 

These statistics are a clear indication that women contribute to Africa’s economic and food security. Yet policies in African countries continue to deny women the full rights over the land that they tend or even the earnings that they derive from their produce. According to the Center For Women’s Land Rights, 65 per cent of land in Kenya is governed by customary law, which gives men precedence in land ownership over women and applies in various forms throughout Africa. It means that the women who tend to the land cannot use it as collateral should they need a bank loan.

 

Women are denied a seat at the decision-making table that determines land rights as well as agricultural policies.

 

Furthermore, women are denied a seat at the decision-making table that determines land rights as well as agricultural policies. Yet numerous research programmes have shown that if women had the same access to resources as men, then agricultural yields in Africa would increase by up to 4 per cent, reducing the number of hungry people by 17 per cent. Despite being endowed with more than 20 per cent of the world’s arable land, Africa’s food import bill stands at 35 billion US dollars and is expected to reach 110 billion by 2030. In this decade of action, Africa has a huge opportunity to make agriculture its economic driver.

 

Yet there are several barriers that hinder women’s success in agribusiness, despite their representing 70 per cent of Africa’s agricultural activities. Women lack access to capital, farming inputs as well as knowledge on new technologies on sustainable farming practices and local, regional and global market trends, just to mention a few restrictions. Value addition is still not fully exploited on the continent – most African countries continue to export their food, for example cocoa, tea and coffee, as raw materials and then import it as finished products. African markets are still stationary buildings which to access farmers must use a poor road network, where movement is weather-dependent, so that a lot of food does not reach the markets and will waste away in farms with poor infrastructure and poor storage facilities. While E-commerce is slowly gaining ground on the continent, it is still a preserve of a few tech savvy farmers especially the youth, who unfortunately have no access to land and capital to start businesses.

 

A tailwind for women and youth-owned agribusinesses

As a non-profit network limited by guarantee, the Africa Women Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Afrika was established with a vision to create a platform for African women and youth in agribusiness to access finance, markets, and trade information. The aim is to enable and accelerate their businesses by leveraging opportunities available within the regional markets, and for them to tap into the newly created Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and global markets. It is a network that comprises individual members’ businesses such as producers, processors, aggregators, export companies and input suppliers, among others, across 38 countries in Africa.

 

For agriculture to be profitable, we have to embrace technology. The organisation provides women-owned and youth-owned agribusinesses with an E-Hub, which is a repository of information on agriculture along value chains and supply chains and also facilitates access to new agricultural technologies. #AWANAfrikaUnder30 champions are African youth of either gender engaged in agribusiness. Since our establishment, we have registered 1,500 women- and youth-owned businesses and groups in our network in 42 countries, and we have impacted over one million women-owned small agribusiness enterprises (mama fish, mama mboga), which we do through regular coaching.

 

African Cashew Initiative in Ghana. Photo: Michael Drexler, GIZ
African Cashew Initiative in Ghana. Photo: Michael Drexler, GIZ

Some of the major obstacles to Africa’s agribusiness that I mentioned above would be solved if women and youth had access to finance and financial services, yet women and agriculture are still considered a risky business by most banks and lenders, who will not offer them loans for farming. At AWAN Afrika, we work with financial institutions advocating for innovative financing models for our members, be it digital loans or the use of facilities other than land as collateral. We also lobby governments to work on policy that makes it easier for governments to support lenders who prioritise women and youth in agribusiness.

 

Furthermore, we train our members on the need for market-driven agriculture, which ensures them ready markets for their produce. This ties in with our other two pillars of Technology and Trade facilitation – where we see to it that our members are keeping up to date on agricultural information via our E-hub repository for agricultural information, which informs them about trade, including agreements between trading blocs, as well as standards and certifications. It also provides them with the latest information on trading in different markets. At the moment, we are engaged in ensuring that our members are not left out of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which will offer a bigger market and a chance for Africans to trade more with each other.

 

It is clear that agriculture will be the next youth employer.

 

We are in the process of finalising a platform that will connect our continental digital platform with the aim of linking women’s agribusinesses with buyers, exporters, investors, Agritech companies and other value chain actors to facilitate inclusive participation in the continental and global markets.

 

Moving forward

We have but scratched the surface, and much more needs to be done if women are to benefit from their labour in agriculture. Working with development partners, African governments must deliberately introduce training on the whole agricultural value chain, targeting women and youth. It is clear that agriculture will be the next youth employer. But out of the eleven million youths entering the job market in Africa each year, only three million are able to get gainful employment. Governments and development partners should support initiatives like AWAN Afrika to scale up our activities in order to reach more women and youth.

 

What about COVID-19?

Finally, as Africa stares at its first recession in 25 years, owing to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, international solidarity with the continent is required to keep businesses afloat. The first victims of the sustained lockdowns and restriction of movement measures put in place to contain the spread of the Coronavirus are women smallholder farmers and young agripreneur start-ups. Women will be affected down to the household level due to additional work as a consequence of the lockdown.

 

Women use their mobile phones to receive weather data via text messages. Photo: Klaus Wohlmann, GIZ
Women use their mobile phones to receive weather data via text messages. Photo: Klaus Wohlmann, GIZ

Post-COVID-19, the international community has been left devastated, and traditional lenders will be dealing with their own domestic challenges. While big businesses will decry a lack of stimulus packages, for informal traders and smallholder farmers, these packages may actually not be the solution. We need to seek solutions that will impact the lives of millions of vulnerable farming families.

 

AWAN Afrika is in the process of finalising a survey on the impact of COVID-19 on Small and Medium Enterprises. We aim to understand their coping mechanisms and what their businesses are going to look like eight months from now. Women will suffer a double blow, because now, in addition to losing income, they must take care of their children, who are at home as schools are closed, they lack labour to manage their farms, and domestic violence is on the rise.

 

We, the AWAN Afrika initiative appeal for the support of our project, which is based on a business model that seeks flexible funding to help our Small and Medium enterprises survive the economic shocks of COVID-19. Businesses need cash, and our women have no access to cash sources. As many of these women have told us, for them, hunger is closer and more dangerous than COVID-19.

 

This article first appeared in Rural21 Vol. 54 No. 2/2020 on: Employment for rural Africa and is part of a media cooperation between weltohnehunger.org and Rural 21.

Go back

Similar articles

Reference values: A building block on the road to social equality

Article by Friederieke Martin (GIZ)

A quick and cost-effective method calculates living wages and incomes for many different countries. The GIZ together with Fairtrade International and Richard and Martha Anker have developed a tool that companies can use to easily analyse income and wage gaps.

Read more

Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Supermarket Scorecard on Human Rights

By Dr. Franziska Humbert (Oxfam)

Oxfam’s supermarket scorecard, which is in its third year, shows one thing in particular - it works! Supermarkets can change their business policies and focus more on the rights of those people around the world who plant and harvest food. However, this does not happen without pressure. 

Read more

Success story allotment garden: Food supply and women's empowerment

By Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet

To prevent malnutrition among young children and strengthen the role of women in their communities, Misereor, together with the local non-governmental organisation CEBEDES, is implementing a programme on integrated home gardens in Benin - a series of pictures.

Read more

Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Planetary Health: Recommendations for a Post-Pandemic World

By Dr. Kathleen Mar and Dr. Nicole de Paula

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change is also affecting the environmental and social determinants of health in a profound and far-reaching way deserves further recognition.

Read more

"Pandemic increases violence against women"

Interview with Léa Rouanet

African countries still face huge gender gaps in terms of access to work and capital. What are the consequences of Corona for women in Africa? Jan Rübel interviewed Léa Rouanet on lockdowns and gender-based violence. The economist works at the Africa Gender Innovation Lab of the World Bank.

Read more

Gender equality: Essential for food and nutrition security

By Carsta Neuenroth (BfdW)

The majority of producers in developing countries are women. Although they contribute significantly to the food security of their families, they remain chronically disadvantaged in male-dominated agriculture in terms of access to land, credit, technology and education.

Read more

School Feeding: A unique platform to address gender inequalities

By Carmen Burbano de Lara (WFP)

Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.

Read more

Africa's rapid economic transformation

By T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire

Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.

Read more

Quinoa could have a huge potential in Central Asia, where the Aral Sea Basin has been especially hard-hit by salinisation.

Video: 4 Questions to Claudia Makdristo

By Seedstars

Startups are booming in African agriculture. What are the current trend and challenges – and can other regions benefit from innovative approaches? A Video-Interview with Claudia Makadristo, Regional Manager of Seedstars  

Read more

(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

From start to finish: a vision of interconnectivity

By Tanja Reith

At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.

Read more

Building our food systems back better

By Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller

What is required to make food systems provide sufficient, healthy food while not harming the planet? How should food security be maintained given the threat posed by climate change? Our authors look at some aspects of tomorrow’s food systems against the backdrop of the corona crisis.

Read more

More than just a seat at the table

By Welthungerhilfe

Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. For many young people, agriculture could offer a job perspective. But to improve the living conditions and job prospects of young people in rural areas, political reforms and investments are desperately needed, as these people will be at the centre of agriculture and agricultural development in the future.

Read more

Global responsibility: Tackling hunger is the only way forward

By Lisa Hücking (WHH)

Chancellor Merkel has begun an ambitious European political programme: Striving for compromise in budget negotiations, an orderly Brexit as well as an appropriate response to the corona crisis. Unfortunately, one of her positions that she previously held is nowhere to be found: Africa's prosperity is in the interest of Europe. 

Read more

Innovations for a secure food supply

By German Agribusiness Alliance

The COVID 19 pandemic is hitting developing and emerging countries and their poorest populations particularly hard. It is important to take countermeasures at an early stage. Companies in the German agricultural sector want to make their contribution to ensuring the availability of urgently needed operating resources.

Read more

Turning many into one: CGIAR network restructures

By Jan Rübel

International agricultural research is responding to new challenges: Their advisory group is undergoing a fundamental reform process and unites knowledge, partnerships and physical assets into OneCGIAR.

Read more

© GIZ

Ideas on the ground: Local solutions for global challenges

Interview with Sebastian Lesch (BMZ)

A world without hunger and with sufficient healthy food as well as climate-friendly agriculture can only be achieved if ideas are transformed into innovations and ultimately also applied - a conversation with BMZ Head of Division Sebastian Lesch on the Innovation Challenge programme of the new Agricultural Innovation Fund.

Read more

(c) Joerg Boethling/GIZ

What it takes now

By Heike Baumüller

Artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain are the hottest topics of our time. The digital transformation of the African agricultural sector is ready for take-off. What will it take for the future of technology to hit the ground running?

Read more

(c) Katapult/GIZ

The digitised farmyard

By Jan Rübel

Lots of apps are entering the market, but what really makes sense? For African agriculture, some of it seems like a gimmick, some like a real step forward. So this is what a smallholder farm in Africa could look like today - with the help of smartphones, internet and electricity. 

Read more

(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

By Stig Tanzmann

Time to dig deeper: We can only benefit from technical progress if we have a solid legal framework for everybody. But so far, none is in sight - in many countries. Instead, international corporations grow ever more powerful.

Read more

Video diaries in the days of Corona: Voices from the ground

By Sarah D´haen & Alexander Müller, Louisa Nelle, Bruno St. Jaques, Sarah Kirangu-Wissler and Matteo Lattanzi (TMG)

Young farmers’ insights on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food systems in Sub-Saharan Africa @CovidFoodFuture and video diaries from Nairobi’s informal settlements.

Read more

Freed from trade? Towards a fairer EU Trade Agenda

By Dr. Jan Orbie

‘Fair’ and ‘sustainable’ are key words in Germany’s EU Council Presidency. At the same time, Germany pursues ‘modernization’ of the WTO and ‘rapid progress’ on free trade agreements. Are these goals really compatible? Can we be concerned about fairness and sustainability while continuing with ‘business as usual’?

Read more

Good health is impossible without healthy food

By Heino von Meyer

Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.

Read more

“Corona exposes the weaknesses of our nutritional systems"

Interview with Arif Husain (WFP)

The United Nations plan a Food Systems Summit - and now the Corona-Virus is dictating the agenda. The Chief Economist of the UN World Food Programme takes stock of the current situation: a conversation with Jan Rübel about pandemics, about the chromosomes of development - and about the conflicts that inhibit them.

Read more

Hier steht eine Bildbeschreibung

Statement from GAFSP Co-Chairs: GAFSP and COVID-19 Pandemic

By GAFSP

COVID-19 has unprecedented effects on the world. As always, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit, both at home and - especially - abroad. A joint appeal by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Department for International Development (DFID).

Read more

Do we have to dare a new food system?

By Dr. Felix zu Löwenstein (BÖLW)

Lack of seasonal workers and virus explosion in slaughterhouses, rising vegetable prices, climate crisis – all this demonstrates: Our food system is highly productive and (at least for the rich inhabitants of planet earth) guarantees an unprecedented rich and steady food supply - but it is not resilient.

Read more

Ms Rudloff, what are the benefits of a supply chain law?

By Jan Rübel

The Federal Government is fine-tuning a law that would require companies to ensure human rights – a supply chain law. What are the consequences for the agricultural sector? Dr Bettina Rudloff from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) discusses linking policy fields with added value.

Read more