Africa's face of agriculture is female

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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.

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A contribution 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.

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(c) Klara Palatova/WFP

A global signpost: What way is the market, please?

A contribution by the World Food Programme

There is a clear global task: We need to feed nine billion people by 2050. We, the people of Earth, must produce more food and waste less. That is the top priority of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), too - the description of a challenge.

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Silicon Valley for Africa’s agricultural start-ups

A contribution by Michel Bernhardt (GIZ)

The project “Scaling digital agriculture innovations through start-ups” (SAIS) supports Africans going into business in the agricultural and food sector in scaling their digital innovations and thus reaching out to a larger number of users.

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(c) Christoph Pueschner/Zeitenspiegel

Can this end world hunger?

A report 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.

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(c) Christoph Mohr/GIZ

Microinsurance against climate change

A contribution by Claudia Voß

Climate change is destroying development progress in many places. The clever interaction of digitalisation and the insurance industry protects affected small farmers.

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“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.

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(c) Christoph Püschner

The price isn’t everything

By Bettina Rühl

In Togo’s capital, Lomé, home-grown rice costs almost twice as much as the imported product from Thailand. Yet there are good reasons for preferring the local product

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(c) Christoph Püschner/Zeitenspiegel

Slaves do not produce quality

By Tilman Wörtz

Every child in Germany knows Ritter Sport – but most of the children harvesting cocoa on western African plantations have never even eaten chocolate. Can a chocolate manufacturer change the world? Conversation with Alfred Ritter about the power and powerlessness of a businessman.

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Ebay Against Hunger - How an App Supports Crop Sale of Rural Small Holders in Zambia

Small holders around the world are often forced to sell their harvests below market value due to a lack of market and pricing information. A new app by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is going to change this.

A project of WFP

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Small fish with a big potential

A contribution by Paul van Zwieten

African inland fisheries are increasingly reliant on the capture of small fish species that are sundried and traded over long distances. They make an important contribution in alleviating “hidden hunger”: consumed whole, small fish are an important source of micronutrients. Only that, unfortunately, politicians haven’t yet realised this.

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Do we have to dare a new food system?

A contribution 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.

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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.

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Uli Reinhardt/Zeitenspiegel

Bitter fruit

A contribution by Frank Brunner

Why aren’t bars of chocolate made where cocoa is grown? Author Frank Brunner analyses the industry’s fragile value chain from the plantation to the supermarket

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Freed from trade? Towards a fairer EU Trade Agenda

A contribution by Dr. Jan Orbie (University Gent)

‘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’?

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Good health is impossible without healthy food

A contribution 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.

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Hier steht eine Bildbeschreibung

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

A contribution 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).

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“They said: You can do it”

A contribution by Bread for the World

As President of the IABM cooperative in Muhanga, Alphonsine Mukankusi is not simply focused on the figures. She has learned how to deal with people and how to take on responsibility. At the same time, her work helps her to come to terms with the past

 

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(c) Privat

Small Farms, big money

A contribution by Agnes Kalibata

Agnes Kalibata, AGRA president since 2014 and former minister of agriculture and wildlife in Rwanda, is convinced that Africa's economy will only grow sustainably if small-scale agriculture is also seen as an opportunity.

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The fight against illegal fishing

A Report

The oceans are important for our food supply, but they are overfished. To halt this trend the global community is now taking action against illegal fishing. Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Francesco Marí, a specialist for world food, agricultural trade and maritime policy at "Brot für die Welt," and others.

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The Rice Sector in West Africa: A Political Challenge

New insights on trade and value addition in the rice sector in West Africa

Low import tariffs, smuggling activities, unpredictable tax exemptions and weak enforcement of food safety standards: The potential of local rice value chains is undermined in West African countries.

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Support for sustainable start-ups

Companies in Africa that need financing between $20,000 and $200,000 find relatively few investors, as this sector is too large for microcredit and too small for institutional investors. This creates a "gap in the middle" where companies have limited options. A project of the World Resource Institute provides a remedy with the Landaccelerator 2020.

A World Resources Institute project

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Africa's digital disruption

Graphics

What Africa is experiencing in the course of digitisation is a disruption. Here three steps are taken in one, there you remain. In any case, the changes are enormous and bring some surprises. A graphic walk.

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Not waiting for a savior

An article by Lidet Tadesse

While Africa is the least affected region by Covid-19 so far, the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent is quickly rising. Despite the challenges many African countries continue to face, the African response to the coronavirus pandemic displays innovation and ingenuity.

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What do you expect from this Pre Summit, Mr. Haddad?

Interview with Lawrence Haddad (GAIN)

Nutrition experts from all over the world are coming together in Rome. They are not only distilling 2000 ideas to improve food systems - they are also preparing for the big UN summit in New York in September. An interview. 

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Mr. Campari, how do we create sustainable food systems?

Interview with Joao Campari (WWF)

Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Joao Campari ahead of the UNFSS Pre-Summit. The Chair of Action Track 3 highlights key challenges in transforming existing food systems towards sustainable production and shares his expectations for the Summit.

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UNFSS Pre-Summit: What did it achieve?

Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)

After the summit means pre-summit: It was the first time that the United Nations held a summit on food systems. Martina Fleckenstein, Michael Kühn and Christel Weller-Molongua reviewed the situation in this joint interview.

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