A Woman’s Work
Windhoek – Agriculture is not only one of the most important economic sectors in Namibia, it is also a critical source of livelihood for the majority of the population, especially women.
Therefore, it is important that Namibian women explore business opportunities presented by the wide-ranging agricultural sector, as this can be a key pathway out of poverty and highway to women empowerment.
Women’s participation in agriculture was part of discussion during a dialogue held between Namibia and Nigeria women in business held in Windhoek last Monday.
Alexandria Angala, chief agro-business analyst in Namibia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, said the agricultural sector has lots of opportunities for investment, especially in areas of livestock and crop production.
Because agriculture is a critical source of livelihood for women in many developing countries, and a key pathway out of poverty and for economic advancement, Angala implored women to take advantage of business opportunities in order to eradicate poverty.
Angala told The Southern Times that, “Investing in agriculture can lead to the improvement of agricultural productivity as well as food security and nutrition and this can only (be) achieved if we can partner and invest in agriculture.
“Currently, there is little or no value added to Namibia’s products, especially beef, sheep, goat, poultry, pearl millet, dates, grapes, medicinal plants such as hoodia, devil’s claw, to mention but a few.
“Potential investment opportunities exist in the areas of processing of these various products into finished goods.
“There are also notable investment opportunities that exist in canning, bottling, packaging of fruits and vegetables into products such as juices, jams, dried vegetables, fruit flavours for the beverage industry, and many more,” she said.
Angala said meat is the main agricultural product produced in Namibia and beef is the most significant.
In 2012, Namibia produced 70 000 tonnes of beef, 50 000 tonnes of which was exported to South Africa in raw form last year, she said.
Investment opportunities are also available in forestry – such as woodcarving and sawmilling, as well as forest maintenance through tree planting and fire control.
“There is also land made available for the development of processing facilities such as hubs as well as opportunities in transportation of livestock, livestock products as well as crops and crop products,” Angala said.
Angala said businesswomen need to take advantage of investment opportunities in order to grow the economy of their countries in areas such crop production, horticulture, livestock, agricultural infrastructure and capacity development.
Although there are active laws and regulations that promote investment, women in business both in Nigeria and Namibia are finding it difficult to secure sufficient funds to venture into business and that is the biggest hurdle women face.
Aisha Muhammed-Oyebode, leader of the Nigerian delegates, pointed out unequal distribution of wealth between men and women, gender inequality, inaccessible natural resources such as land as some of the barriers aspiring women in business face.
“In Africa, 75 percent of women are agricultural producers but they are least owners of land.
“This is not because women are worse farmers, but due to a gender gap in access to resources such as seeds, fertilisers and technology,” Muhammed-Oyebode.
She said women are also disadvantaged when it comes to owning land, adding that divorces and widowhood cause many women to become landless and lose their assets, an issue made worse by low wages.
Muhammed-Oyebode stressed that equalising access to productive resources between female and male farmers can increase agricultural output, something that can contribute to economic growth.
Removing some of the challenges that impede women’s progress can be beneficial not only to women but also to the local economies by making them more competitive in the global market and hopefully accelerating development, she said.
Muhammed-Oyebode said there is need for governments to come up with more gender-aware programmes that recognise the different needs of men and women, engagement with women’s groups as real partners in development, and further projects that look to find evidence to identify the range of agricultural challenges women face.
She further called on women to empower themselves in order to break down the barriers that they are facing in a bid to excel in their quest for excellence in business.
Nigeria women in business were in Namibia for a weeklong trip organised by The Murtala Muhammed Foundation in collaboration with the Nigerian High Commission in Namibia and Namibia’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare.
Muhammed-Oyebode said the aim of the trip was to increase networking opportunities between the business professional women of Nigeria and Namibia, and explore more business partnerships in Namibia, as well as to creating business partnerships between women of both countries.