It is not a bad idea to consider enhancing women’s participation in commercial agriculture.
WOMEN | AGRICULTURE
By Simon J. Mone
It has been years, and the women of this world continue to be deprived of development programmes. In some lucky societies, women were only fortunate to have a chance at agriculture. This was the practice of the olden tradition, where women were reduced to agriculture, mainly for subsistence.
And they stopped at that. They were occupied, harvesting food for the household. For any surplus that accrued, they took to the local market; on market days (this was once a week). At the end of the market day, a majority of them would return and hand over the money from the sale of surplus food to their husbands. Many would happily receive the money. The irresponsible men would spend it selfishly, on less important items such as local ‘waragi’. And this was the African way of life. It is still the practice widely popular among many African communities.
While few communities have reformed, quite a handful finds it extremely difficult to change for better. Therefore, on this occasion of International Women’s Day, the world needs to find some motivation to deliver the magical moments that will change women’s livelihood for better. As an immediate-term intervention, it is not a bad idea to consider enhancing women’s participation in commercial agriculture. It is the easiest way to support the women. It does not require expensive investments to improve the farming skills of the women.
And things like farming as a business or improved skills in preservation and storage would very quickly come to mind. This is an immediate-term solution because agriculture still remains the best chance for African women to attain respectable levels of income. Agriculture will generate employment for many of them, for a good number of years. And with populations that are moving to cities, there will definitely be demand for food. So farming will generate job opportunities in agriculture-related activities. It can be made profitable. It is a venture which all the women can engage in - food production on large commercial farms.
All that governments must do is; offer incentives that will ensure that women can add value to their crop production. For example, make it easy for them to access agro-inputs, credit and improved farming methods. In this way, participation and inclusion of women in development agenda can be promoted. Otherwise, currently in our society, women have been isolated, marginalised and left behind, with lack of opportunities.
It is not helped by the fact that quite a number of them drop out of school. So a majority of them find it hard to get employment outside farming. That is why, despite the campaigns to bring women to a good development platform, like; gender equality campaigns, promotion of the girl child education, improved welfare of women, gender-based violence messages and all, the situation largely remains unchanged for the women at the countryside who are especially vulnerable to harmful traditional practices.
Little has changed to improve the lives of especially for countryside women. It means that rural women require an alternative strategy to help bring them to speed with available opportunities. It means that women remain vulnerable to abuse, harassment and societal discrimination. So we can help reverse inequality among women. Expand opportunities. Continue to offer to them cash assistance programmes through start-up capital to boost their incomes and therefore, businesses. Get the women up to speed with their endeavours in order that they too, are financially empowered to prosper in whatever schemes they start up. Once women get the much needed empowerment, they could be delivered from the situation of poverty to prosperity for good.
The writer is a civil engineer