Apr 16, 2024
Forum spotlights interventions for designing more gender-inclusive agrifood policies in Africa

Experts working across different sectors of agri-food systems have called for enhanced women’s representation in the agricultural value chain, which would necessitate the design of gender-responsive policies in agrifood systems across the continent.

The thought leaders convened at a side event held at the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) in New York. The side event was co-hosted by the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Uganda, and Malawi to the United Nations.

The event took stock of the progress on gender equality and emphasized the critical role of well-designed policies in shifting the needle toward equitable agrifood systems.

In a recorded message, Ambassador Nosipho Nausca-Jean Jezile, the representative of the Republic of South Africa to Italy, urged organizations working in food systems to collaborate in developing innovative solutions to translate the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Voluntary Guidelines into tangible actions for equitable agrifood systems in Africa.

“These guidelines encompass a broad spectrum of policy recommendations, ranging from promoting women’s food security and nutrition to ensuring their full participation and leadership in agrifood systems,” Amb. Jezile said.

Sharing their experiences as Fellows in AWARD’s Gender Responsive Agriculture Systems Policy (GRASP) Fellowship, Dr. Romana Mbinya, Dr. Clara Chinwoke Ifeanyi-obi, and Ms. Comfort Yelipoei highlighted the critical need to include women’s voices, needs, and priorities in the design on Policies.

Ms. Yelipoei, a 2022 AWARD Policy Fellow and an Agricultural Officer in Ghana, works to improve women farmers’ access to quality planting materials and seeds. She addressed the importance of women’s empowerment as a tool in fostering equal opportunities for women across agrifood systems.

” From my experience, access to quality seeds is a challenge for women farmers since they lack adequate resources, which is why we should work towards empowering women to be competitive in accessing these limited resources,” she said.

She believes this can be achieved by limiting the barriers women face in accessing credit facilities, extension services, and social protection aspects in the domestic setting that constrict women’s productivity in agrifood systems.

Dr. Ifeanyi-obi, a 2022 AWARD Policy Fellow from Nigeria working to develop a policy framework to track the implementation of gender commitments in climate change policies, spoke of her participatory research findings, which highlight disparities in the development of climate interventions in agrifood systems.

“Many climate interventions do not address the peculiar needs of the key victims of climate risks, who are rural women,” she said.

A recurring theme during the discussions was how individual experiences shaped their desire to address the plight of women in agrifood systems. Dr. Mbinya, a 2022 AWARD Policy Fellow from Kenya, shared her experience on how the exclusion of women in decision-making on agricultural matters plunged the family into disarray upon her grandfather’s death.

“My grandfather was the one deciding what to grow and what to take to the factory. When we lost him, my grandmother was thrown into darkness; she was illiterate, she did not even know where the factory was, and she did not have a bank account. I had to step in to support her,” said Romana.

These experiences have impassioned numerous AWARD Policy Fellows to work toward bridging the gender gap and advocating for the design of inclusive agrifood policies that cater to the needs of women in agriculture.

Attention to care policies help reduce inequalities in food systems

Ms. Jamille Bigio, the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at USAID, highlighted how the organization addresses women’s underlying disparities through its programs.

An example of such a program is the Generating Resilience and Opportunities for Women (GROW) commitment in 2023. The organization is investing up to $335 million, primarily through the U.S. government’s Feed the Future Initiative, which targets women’s economic opportunities beyond primary production in agriculture.

“Through GROW, we aim to drive the humanitarian system by prioritizing the unique needs of women and girls to tackle the discriminatory norms and policies that underlie the persistent inequities we see across the sector,” said Ms. Bigio.

Lack of access to productive resources was also a key theme of the discussions. Dr. Jemimah Njuki, the Chief of the Economic Empowerment Section at UN Women, highlighted the need to empower women at the subsidiary level.

“Food systems embed deeply rooted inequalities, and to address that, we need first to design policies that address inequalities at a domestic level, inequalities such as access to resources and tools for production and equal pay for female laborers,” she said.

Dr. Nomathemba Mhlanga, an Agribusiness Officer at FAO, shared her insights on why care policies can be used to address several constraints simultaneously. She articulated that “the policy priorities should be to ensure that these care policies that are being drafted or operationalized are policies that complement each other and solve the social and economic issues women face.”

Governments should commit to implementing gender-sensitive agricultural policy frameworks

Speaking at the event, Hon. Jean Sendeza, Minister of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare of Malawi, highlighted policy interventions embedded in the Malawi 2063 Development Plan that aim to promote Gender Equality in advancing sustainable agriculture and food security in Malawi.

“The agenda ensures women’s equal access to land resources, credit, and agricultural extension services that empower them as key actors in agriculture, enhance household food security, and contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development,” said Minister Sendeza.

Uganda has also been conducting an intensive review of its agricultural policies. Uganda’s Presidency Minister, Hon. Babalanda Milly Babirye, articulated how the country aligns its policies with the interventions needed to tackle emerging inequalities across countries.

“Our Food and Nutrition Policy of 2003 is currently under review to include several interventions that promote inclusive gender practices,” said Hon. Babalanda.

She also highlighted the critical role of data in policy formulation, stating that “there is a need to strengthen the collection and use of high-quality data, broken down by sex, age, and other social and economic differences.”

You can read the blogs published on the AWARD website to learn more about the AWARD Policy Fellows’ experiences at the conference. Dr. Romana MbinyaDr. Clara Chinwoke Ifeanyi-obi, and Ms. Comfort Yelipoei.



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