How equal treatment of women in agriculture supports food security

03Jun 2016
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
How equal treatment of women in agriculture supports food security

AGRICULTURE is one of the leading economic sectors of Tanzania contributing to around 21 percent to the country’s GDP and provides employment to around 80 percent of the population.

Female farmers play an important role in agricultural productivity, despite the challenges they have been facing compared to their male counterparts.

The presence of favorable climatic conditions provide opportunities in commercial farming of various cash crops such as coffee, cotton, tobacco, sisal, cashew nuts, sugar and pyrethrum.

Speaking to reporters in Dar es Salaam recently when naming 19 women who will enter into the 21 days ‘Female food heroes competition,” in Swahili-popular known as “Mama Shujaa wa Chakula,’ Oxfam's country director Jane Foster said that it was vital and encouraging to make agriculture a respectable sector.

According to Foster, more than 70 per cent of Tanzanian women engage in small scale agriculture, and most of them live in rural areas. Since most of these women lack knowledge on proper information on modern farming methods and skills, their farming activities remain a big challenge.

She said that if the government and other key stakeholders in the sector could take serious measures to improve it, it will transform smallholder farmers’ lives and hence contribute greatly to the national economy.

“It is our anticipation that through this competition we will be able to realise new challenges facing small holder farmers that are key for the government’s policy formulation and priority setting.”

This is the fifth year Oxfam has been organising the same competition not only in Tanzania but also in Ethiopia and Nigeria.

Oxfam’s boss further noted that globally female farmers play an important role in agricultural productivity, despite the challenges they have been facing compared to their male counterparts.

She mentioned those challenges as: Barriers related to land ownership, access to technology and machinery, training, decision-making powers, and participation in value chains.

As a result, she added that those challenges have been blocking stones hindering female farmers to full attain their potentials. “So, organisations investing in agricultural development should examine the untapped role that female farmers can play and take this into consideration as they create and implement their programmes,” she urged.

The participation of over 3000 women in the Female Food Heroes competition to nominate the participants in that competition in September this year, was a vivid indication that many educated and uneducated women have recognised the benefits of agriculture and have taken it as an opportunity that if well utilised can transform their lives to better standard.

This year’s ‘female food heroes’ search saw brought together women from different academic levels including those earning PhD, Masters, degrees, members of the parliament, among others each seeking a chance to be nominated to participate in the competition.

The competition that is expected to be shown live by Independent Television (ITV) under Oxfam organisation aims at raising awareness of the incredible achievements of female food producers across the country, whose contributions to society often go unrecognised.

Oxfam’s boss further noted that women as producers mainly in agri-goods are important to be recognised so that they build confidence; hence their products also get both local and international market.

However, in the recent years, it has been observed that more educated people are now engaging in agricultural activities defying the concept that farming was only for rural and uneducated people.

If the trend continues like this will greatly help the country attain its goal one and two or even the fifth goal in the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) (No poverty, Zero hunger and gender equality) thus transforming the country into another stage of development.

For her part, Tanzania Bureau of Standard (TBS)’ Standard Officer, Stella Mrosso said that the authority has a special programme to help small scale producers through Small Industries Development Organisation (SIDO).

She has therefore, encouraged them to properly utilise it because it was free. Through that programme, TBS, tests and gives standard approval for the products to compete in the local and international market.

“It is unfortunate many small scale business holders use a lot of energy and money in producing their products which at the end fails to secure market because they lacked international standards approval. Thus, I encourage them to use the Regional SIDO offices to be identified,” she called.

The 19 named farmers included: Betty Nyange (62) from Morogoro; Monica Charles Mduwile (44) Dodoma; Neema Uhagile (29) Njombe; Mary Lyatuu (29) Arusha; Loyce Mazengo (39) Singida; Anjela Mswete (48) Iringa; and Lucina Assey (54) from Shinyanga.

Others include Marta Nyalama (50) from Kaskazini Unguja; Christina Machumu (42) Mara; Happiness Raulent (35), Kagera.
They also include Mary Soko (42) from Ruvuma; Mary Mwiru (39) Kilimanjaro; Mwanaid Abdalla (53) Mjini Magharibi; Maria Mbuya (43) Mbeya; Eliza Mwansasu (30) from Rukwa; Mwajibu Binamu (46) Mtwara; Eva Sikaponda (40) Songwe; Hidaya Musa (40) Tanga; and Mwasiti Mazuri (40) from Kinondoni Dar es Salaam.

On the other hand, World Bank study of 2014, indicated that female farmers produce 14 percent less than male farmers in Tanzania due to gender gaps, an estimated 75 percent of farmers in Tanzania are women.

However, female farms are often less successful due to gender bias. Women have to tackle the obstacles of securing land rights and having less access to necessary resources and labourers.

The study also determined that if women were treated equally in agriculture, farm yields would increase by up to 30 percent, feeding 150 million more people daily. In other words, granting equality to female farmers is crucial in reducing poverty, boosting economic growth and feeding Africa’s growing population.

Oxfam an organization working against world poverty started the series in 2011 to raise awareness of the many female farmers in Africa that go unnoticed. The series educates farmers on progressive agriculture techniques as well as grants female farmers an important voice.