By Patience Mbah Atim, from Agro Hub Cameroon. Patience recently attended the African Union Summit, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia below she shares her reflections.
Each time I think of African Union 2014 theme “Agriculture and Food Security” I say to myself ‘finally’. I wonder why it’s taken so long for them to come up with this theme and I must applaud whoever is behind this theme.
Permit me talk on this as a young woman and agricultural entrepreneur from a country where statistics says 70% of the country depends on agriculture for a livelihood (Cameroon). I have been opportune to attend some of the pre-summit meetings such as the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) consultative meeting on gender mainstreaming from the angle of Empowering Women for Agriculture and Food Security. The two days meeting brought together women organisations, policy and decision makers. One of my favourite presentations was that of Dr Carlos Lopes, UN-Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa. He had all the statistics; ‘It is widely documented that women are the backbone of the African agricultural sector’.
In some countries, the female share of the agricultural labour force exceeds 55%, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%, and this could raise total agricultural output in developing countries between 2.5-4%. Yes so we have heard and from many others but it’s enough! We are tired of being just a statistical value; of being just another woman somewhere in Africa. It’s about time our leaders realise we the young women and girls are the key to Africa’s development; I want to believe this is the driving force behind the African Union theme.
The economic contribution of the African woman has most often than not been neglected and undervalued. As a young woman in agriculture, the challenges are just so enormous; lack of access to land ownership, lack of capital and land inputs, market opportunities, gender bias and climate injustice. Empowering women economically is a paramount. The rural woman has to move from subsistence to sustainable agriculture. This can be achieved by investing and including the participation of young women and girls in sustainable agriculture that protects the environment and the farming community for the next generation.
A round of applause to the World Young Women’s Christian Association and it’s partners for bringing together 50 young women from across 13 countries in Africa, under the guidance of over 30 mentors to engage in an intergenerational dialogue with other women organisations, ambassadors, ministers, and policy and decision makers. Together we have put out a strong statement that marks out our priorities and recommendations. Our hope is to ensure our leaders all have a copy. We call on them to commit to ensuring we achieve the Future young Women and Girls Want. Women account for 70% of food production in Africa, which is cultivated on just 1% of Africa’s arable land. Women’s contribution should be recognized and valued; their constraints, options, incentive and needs should be assessed and factored in the transformation agenda, then food insecurity will be history.