As Tanzania embraces “Kilimo Kwanza” without gender eyes, civil organizations are mitigating the gap by investing in women small holder farmers as one of the smartest ways to fight poverty, food insecurity, starvation and improve the well-being of families and the entire nation.
To ensure that “Priority Agriculture Programme” or ‘Mpango wa Kilimo Kwanza’ improves the well being of women, local and international organizations are now looking into ways and means of supporting women small holders who are the energy and muscles behind the Kilimo Kwanza initiative.
“Our energy and muscles in this programme are women small holder farmers who produce more than 90 per cent of the food consumed in Tanzania”, says Lillian Liundi from the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP).
Lillian, Acting TGNP Executive Director noted that her organization partners with Oxfam and CARE International in implementing a joint initiative to improve the well being of the woman small holder farmers in a programme dubbed ‘GROW ’ campaign. The Programme was launched recently in Dar es Salaam.
Although 90 per cent of the food consumed in Tanzania is produced by small holder farmers particularly women, yet women are sidelined in areas of empowering them in food management, modern methods of production, marketing and land rights.
GROW has come on time because for several decades women small farmer holders have continued to shoulder the burden of food production, they do not have food security let alone access to land and fruits of their own produce. Even though they use the hand hoes to till the fields and use their heads to carry food loads, they do not have powers over the ‘granaries’.
Lillian noted that this partnership is aiming at enhancing food security by educating women on their rights such as land rights and to connect farmers with organizations like TGNP, CARE International. She added that big investors are grabbing land leaving Tanzanians landless.
TGNP fights for women’s rights in many areas such as access to resources such as land and has partnered with Oxfam who is empowering women small holder farmers in this campaign.
GROW initiative according to Oxfam Country Director Dr. Monica Gorman, is a global project and it’s a four-year programme with the purpose of alleviating the looming hunger and food crisis that is affecting mostly women and children. Food insecurity among the marginalized women is exacerbated by lack of commitment by governments in the world to end hunger.
During the launch Dr. Monica further explained that in Tanzania Oxfam is working with formal groups in the rural communities to empower women on management of food, its production, marketing and educating women on land rights.
An Oxfam report on the GROW campaign revealed that with the world population at seven billion, about one billion are going hungry daily, and it is estimated that by 2050 the world population will be nine billion.
Maria Musita a peasant farmer complained that she hears of Kilimo Kwanza but has not seen it in her area, observing that it is gender insensitive and is only concerned with middle class farmers and not the peasant farmers whose majority are women.
Maria added that the extension officers are not doing enough to support small holders particularly women who do not own their own land.
Challenges of marginalization of women small holder farmers were shared in a discussion among small holder farmers, gender activists, university students and members of the public.
A gender activist and small holder farmer Eunice Mashishanga from the Lake zone attributed un-friendly and none pro-poor bank policies to failures of women especially the small holder farmers. She observed that it was thought that the creation of a women’s bank will see incentives for women but unfortunately the women’s bank has just added to the number of banks in Tanzania.
Leah Sunga a student at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) cited the government as the one to blame for the insufficient policies and implementation of programmes on agriculture that has disadvantaged women.
She added that food security must be looked at from the producer to the market so that the farmer benefits at most, but it is a pity that smaller holder farmers are left out, reason being that they do not have capacity to negotiate agro businesses such as technology, means to transport, their yields, markets and again they are shunned by extension officers.
“The Government claims that agriculture is their first priority, but this is not visible on the ground as evidenced by the poor policy, lack of commitment and monetary provisions to boost the sector”, Leah said, adding “Women continue to remain marginalized despite the fact that they carry the burden of the agricultural sector in this country.”
Professor Marjorie Mbilinyi, renowned gender activist echoed unequal access to land between men and women as another predicament against women farmers’ advancement.
Small holders’ women farmers challenged the government to help them improve their lives by mechanizing agriculture so as to increase the output.
They charged that commodity market was being manipulated by powerful investors who are also land grabbers and governing value chains that eventually stifle small holders.
They demanded that it is imperative that the playing field is evened, and need for all to seize opportunities for change and set course towards new prosperity for the age of cooperation rather than competition and that the well being of all must be looked at before the interests of law. It is clear to see that cultural influence; traditions still hinder the fight against the attainment of full women’s rights.
The unfortunate disparity of customary law seeming stronger than public law continues to lead only to marginalization of women. That is why partnerships like Oxfam, CARE International and TGNP and other NGOs are crucial in alleviating the living standards of women small holder farmer in Tanzania.
Christine Ngwisha is a journalist from ZAMWA attached to TAMWA under the auspices of FK Norway Exchange Programme, TAMWA