PAWO-SARO, FAO tackle gender gap in agric

Windhoek- The Pan Africa Women Organisation of Southern Africa (PAWO-SARO) and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have joined hands  to assist women in agriculture improve production and marketing of their produce as well access credit.

The two bodies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last week in Windhoek, which is aimed at closing the gender gap in agriculture through empowering women.

PAWO-SARO Regional Executive Secretary Mildred Jantjies told The Southern Times that the agreement is a concept responding to the set of concrete agriculture goals set in the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agriculture Growth that was adopted by African leaders in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in June 2014 at the African Union summit.

At that summit, African leaders declared to enhance investment in agriculture and vowed to end hunger in Africa by 2025 by accelerating agricultural growth and transformation for share prosperity and improved livelihoods. Jantjies said the Malabo Declaration was also reiterated by the AU High Level Panel on gender as a cross-cutting issue in implementing the 2015 year for women’s empowerment towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.

She described the agreement with FAO as a culmination of a process of negotiations that started two years back between the UN food agency and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) on how best they can conduct capacity-development projects for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in agro-processing, where women are clearly identified as both beneficiaries and contributors simultaneously.

“As a result, a concept paper was developed that articulates the programme activities that is expected to cost $8 million for each four pilot regions in Namibia, that are yet to be identified,” she said.

Jantjies said although women play a significant role in development, their ability to contribute to rural development and family wellbeing was limited by inequalities in choices of occupations, wages and incentives; responsibility for care work; and access to, and control over, productive resources.

She said the partnership is expected to encourage the formation and registration of business-driven cooperatives in Namibia, and the rest of Southern Africa with the aim of promoting agri-business while reducing poverty and improving the standard of living.

Jantjies further said the programme is also expected to improve the irrigation of farmland and gardens owned by women as well as improve the output from women involved in gardening in urban and peri-urban areas.

It will further address land tenure systems that in most cases disempower women as well as increase women’s active involvement in environmental programmes for sustainable agricultural practices.

FAO Country Representative Dr Babagana Ahmadu said MoU would serve as a guideline for the two organisations towards improving agro-industry productivity and trade.

“The memorandum will help us to align activities, focusing on strengthening the capacity of PAWO-SARO and related industry players to achieve mutually beneficial results,” he said.

Ahmadu said since FAO has a track record of working with governmental authorities, local industry and relevant stakeholders on food production, processing and marketing, it was going to draw its global experience to help women’s groups by making them more productive and competitive decision-making agents that participate in trade, and add value to unique local resources, contributing ultimately to local development.

A FAO study shows that women comprise about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force globally and in developing countries. It further reveals that farm yields increase by up to 30 percent if women are given the same access to productive resources, markets and technologies as men.

June 2015
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