SACAU pushes for rights of women in agriculture

Farming in sub-Saharan Africa is a family affair. Yet, women continue to face serious challenges and constraints which inhibit them from effectively unleashing their full potential.

March 8 is International Women’s Day and a chance to look at the impact women have on agriculture as well as the constraints they face in the sector.

These constraints include access to resources such as land, finances, markets, appropriate technology and information; limited technical and managerial capabilities; social, cultural and political prejudices; and marginalisation in decision making processes and Farmers’ Organisations (FOs) leadership structures.

SACAU’s Capacity Development Advisor Benito Eliasi, noted that these three issues of access, ownership of production assets and representation in leadership structures of FO’s remain at the forefront. “You will find that there are a number of economic, social and cultural factors that make access and ownership more difficult for women than their male counterparts,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations notes that women play a critical role in agriculture despite many restraints. About 53.5% of people self-employed in farming are women. While women farmers work the land, women in developing countries hold only 14% of the management positions in agricultural organisations and only 30% of the delegates at the UN climate change meetings between 2000 and 2010 were women.

Eliasi has been a part of a number of SACAU initiatives to address these issues. “SACAU have noted how at a local level you will find many women in leadership positions but as you go up into national and regional structures, you will find very few,” said Eliasi. Access to knowledge and assets is limited for women and, for women trying to build their businesses, this can be an almost insurmountable roadblock.

Part of the reason that SACAU hosts the annual Regional Women Farmers’ Forum is to address these challenges. Occurring near the end of the year, the forum is a chance for women to come together and share experiences. This year’s theme will be ‘Entrepreneurship Development’. The focus will be on building entrepreneurial skills for women farmers. Eliasi is also excited that the forum will be bringing young women and older women together to learn and share their experiences.

Regarding the issue of land rights, SACAU will facilitate members of the forum to participate in the Kilimanjaro initiative that will bring together women in Africa to discuss land issues and women’s rights. The Kilimanjaro meeting is organised by the International Land Coalition (ILC) in collaboration with ActionAid, Tanzania Gender Networking Program and others.

As Eliasi points out, there is still more to be done. “With the Women’s forum we hope to amass knowledge and expertise with the aim to provide solutions. The Kilimanjaro Initiative, although not organised by SACAU, will provide a similar experience for our members.”

SACAU features in prestigious anthology 

© Foreign Affairs

© Foreign Affairs

A special edition anthology, published in partnership with Foreign Affairs, brings together the views of twenty leading thinkers on all aspects of food systems, smallholder farming, and the transformative opportunity presented by digital technology.

The authors include SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga who wrote an essay called “Organizing for the Future: Overcoming Fragmentation with Digital Technology”. Co-curators Kofi Annan, Sir Gordon Conway, and Sam Dryden assert that “The combination of digital technology and human creativity in deploying it will revolutionize life for Africa’s farmers by overcoming isolation, speeding up change, and taking success to scale.”

One of the biggest contributors and a great supporter of this initiative is Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Bill Gates who believes that the way human beings use the power of technology can make a significant difference: “Digital technology can act almost like a secret decoder ring that links the formal and informal sectors.”

The authors have also shared their personal experience at the end of each essay. View and download the Foreign Affairs anthology here:

SACAU to release drought survey for regional action



SACAU members from 12 SADC countries have responded to an urgent call for information on the impact of the drought in the region to help the confederation plan a way forward.

Coordinated by Dr Manyewu Mutamba, the survey evaluates the impact of drought in each country and also identifies the major challenges faced by farmers.

“The survey covered all SACAU members in 12 countries as well as commodity platform members,” says Dr Manyewu Mutamba.

“The response was good, almost all SACAU members responded. Overall about 50% of those invited to the give feedback responded despite the short time window.”

The results are critical to ensure a co-ordinated regional response.

“It has become clear that farmers across Southern Africa are in the clutches of an unrelenting drought,” says Dr Mutamba, adding that all SACAU members are affected.

“It’s already clear that transport and infrastructural bottlenecks will be a constraint to an effective drought response.   A regional approach to tackling these challenges is better placed to galvanize long term solutions, investments and strategies for disaster preparedness in the future,”  says  Dr Mutamba.

The second step will be a high level report based on the survey which will highlight the extent of the drought and the major impacts as well as some of the possible actions to help farmers manage the impacts of the drought.

“We are finalizing a report that will summarize the responses and capture the key outcomes of the survey,” says Dr Mutamba  “This report will be the basis of an information session and media briefing with various stakeholders, partners and media,” he adds.

SACAU will release full results at a press conference on Tuesday, 01 March, 2016.