By Benedict Tembo
FORMER Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo has said that women remain the backbone of agriculture on the African continent but are disadvantaged because of barriers that impede access to inputs and other resources needed to increase their output.
Speaking at a high-level breakfast meeting on the margin of the 36th Summit of the African Union on Empowering Women in Agriculture (EWA), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday, Dr. Obasanjo challenged governments in Africa to promote gender equality in agriculture to reap the benefit brought about by massive involvement of women in the sector.
He said that he was proud to be associated with Empowering Women in Agriculture (EWA) and hopes that African women continue to thrive.
Dr. Obasanjo also emphasised that, “African women have salvaged the situation in Agriculture in Africa,” and was lauded for his unwavering support for gender support in agriculture.
He was also referred to as the “Baba,” of Empowering Women in Agriculture (EWA of Swahili for “Father” of Empowering Women in Agriculture (EWA)
Speaking at the same summit, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, the African Union Commissioner for Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable development said that, “It’s a shame 43 million Ukrainians feed 1.4 billion Africans,”
Ambassador Sacko stated that Africa needs to stop depending on foreigners for survival because the continent has capacity to produce its own food.
Joyce Banda the former President of Malawi said the continent had talked enough.
“It is a fact that women are producing agricultural products but middle men are gaining from their efforts. For how long will women continue to produce and then eat the last and the least?” asked Dr Banda.
Reflecting on the fact that women comprise of 60 percent of the smallholder farmers, Dr Banda noted that women lack support and demanded for reforms in the agricultural sector
“We, African women plant, we nature, we harvest, we store, we cook, but then our efforts are served `by the middle men!” lauded Dr Banda
“Being poor doesn’t mean that we should be foolish… we have lost 22 years, and we need to fast track the progress,” said Dr Banda adding, “ I am available and you can depend on me,”President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Sahle-Work Zewde stated that there was a huge gap for women in agriculture.
Shale-Work said that accessing finance has been a challenge, and there is a need to de- risk the gender biases in agriculture.
“We need to create an eco-system that constitutes of the civil society and government agencies. Otherwise we will be having peace meals with no impact,” she said
President Shale-Work said tohave measurable results in agriculture is extremely important and Africa has a big task to ensure that food security becomes a reality in Africa.
“Women need to be empowered to catch up with the growing demands of Agriculture. We do not have time to loose and we needs to take women out of the vicious cycle of being taken advantage of,” President Sahle-Work
FEMNET, in partnership with GIMAC organised the high-level discussions on the need for equality in Africa, with the agricultural sector being the main agenda.