African women have added their voice to many who advocate for agroecology. They have done that through an interesting article titled ‘African Women Speak Out for Agroecology‘,
Marking the International Women’s Day Celebration on March 8 this year with its theme “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow,” the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems shared with the rest of the world their article.
This according to them grew out of our storytelling project in five African countries and is a useful resource for celebrating the contribution of peasant and indigenous women to healthy food systems in Africa.
The Collaborative is a Pan-African initiative led by peasant and indigenous women with a deep commitment to healthy food systems.
They seek to inform key audiences of the importance of local, agroecological and equitable food systems. In the last year, the Collaborative has given voice to rural women, enabling them to share their stories through a range of media, local and national.
The article draws attention to the perspectives and achievements of peasant and pastoralist women during the COVID-19 pandemic, while conveying the lack of rights and resources they face, and the urgent need for collaboration and strategic partnerships to increase their access to productive resources.
Here is an excerpt of the article African women speak out for agroecology by Ofure Odibeli.
A 2021 study by the UN’s FAO concludes that around a third of the world’s food is produced by smallholder farmers on less than two hectares of land. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage is much larger, with some 60% of the population engaged as smallholder farmers in food production and processing.
At least half of these farmers are women who play a crucial role in the food chain. African women specialize in seeding, weeding, transplanting, harvesting, post-harvest work, processing, marketing, and, in some areas, land preparation.
They also prepare forest fruits, freshwater fish, and livestock products for consumption by their families and communities.
Women have a special relationship with seeds as sorters, savers, and sharers. Healthy seeds are the source and strength of plants and animals that are central to community food systems.
In rural Africa, for as long as women farmers can remember, they, their mothers, their grandmothers, and their own daughters have watched their plants grow to then choose the healthiest, best tasting individual plant’s seeds to gather.
These seeds will, in the coming years, reliably produce the vegetables, herbs, groundnuts, beans, and grains that nurture the growth and health of their own families and communities.
Through their various roles, they ensure that communities and regions are food secure, healthier, more dynamic, and able to contribute more to the country’s economy.
Yet the day-to-day realities of African peasant, pastoralist, and indigenous women are harsh and have become even more constrained in the last two years with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While their role as food producers and providers might be recognized at a high level by the African Union, the United Nations, and some African governments, a large proportion of rural women experience extreme marginalization, exclusion from decision-making, denial of essential resources such as land, water, credit, information, and technologies, and disregard for their deep knowledge of local circumstances and feasible solutions.
Faced with these enormous challenges, rural women farmers continue to show admirable tenacity as they grow nutritious foods to feed their families and communities through the use of agroecological farming practices.
The full article is available in French and English on the links below:
The author concluded by saying “healthy food systems include the health of natural resources (seed, soil, and water) and are also critical to the health of people’s bodies and minds, addressing problems of malnutrition and diet-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart congestion.
“Given women’s crucial role in food production and provision, the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems is urging that women are granted productive resources to support the sustainable production of healthy foods using agroecological methods.
“There is an urgent need for collaboration and the formation of strategic partnerships that tackle peasant and indigenous women’s limited access to productive resources, and the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Foοd Systems is open to such mutually beneficial collaborations and partnerships.”