By Cynthiah Peter
The global community is marking International Women’s Day. It’s good to point out that in Africa and Kenya, particularly most women especially in Kenya’s agriculture, still face challenges yet about 80 per cent of the country’s food is produced by women in small-scale farming.
The agricultural sector is more likely than other sectors to provide diverse opportunities for empowering women.
However, women farmers are held back by barriers that prevent them from feeding their families and reinvesting in their livelihoods. They face restrictions related to their gender while also experiencing the financial struggles shared by all small-scale farmers.
They do not receive the same support as men farmers do. They have less access to land, loans and machinery. Women are heavily involved in domestic activities including caring, cooking and cleaning, which remain hidden economically.
Women are disproportionately affected by climate change and face greater exposure to climate risks due to the same barriers that reduce their productivity.
These are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change. Empowering them is essential, not only for the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also for overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.
The role of women within agriculture and food production is also increasing in most parts of the world. This trend is especially evident in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Men are increasingly choosing to move to the cities. As a result, an ever greater share of responsibility for agricultural activities falls to the women. Better equality within agriculture would also involve other gains, in addition to women’s rights being strengthened. Studies from Africa, Asia and Latin America have shown that the whole family often benefits from women achieving enhanced status and power within the family.
Women generally allocate more money for food, healthcare and education. This gives children better access to nutritious food and girls get a better education. The fact that girls get an education often results in them not getting pregnant until later in life and having fewer children, which, among other things, signifies important health benefits for women in developing countries.
These women in agriculture use donkeys as their helpers at home to fetch water for household use, fetch firewood and in some instances bring some form of income by transporting goods for people as well as renting out the donkey to other women without. We have been empowering these women by educating them on the best husbandry practices to look after their donkeys that are termed as their day to day “helpers.”
These women in the ASAL areas have also been empowered to form savings groups as well as linking them with local financial institutions that will offer them loans at a very affordable rate.
By also linking these women with markets that will enable them to have an avenue for their agricultural produce. These women have also been empowered to develop income generating activities in agriculture that will assist the women to improve the nutrition of their families as well as look after their livestock comfortably.
We also offer agricultural work through farming fodder for sale and consumption by their animals. Through this, these women have been able to rise from poverty by building a concrete house for her family, educating her children, building rental houses in which they use to take care of their family.
There is a need to implement such measures that advance rural women’s access to productive resources, services and market opportunities and those that are complemented with interventions to advance their agency, self-confidence and voice in decision-making processes, as well as corresponding actions to create an enabling environment at the institutional and policy levels. By equalizing this gap, agricultural output could be boosted and global hunger decreased by 17 percent thus we will have achieved “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” in the agricultural space.
Cynthiah Peter, CDO, Kenya Network for the Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (KENDAT)
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