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[NAIROBI] Female agricultural researchers, farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs  are not receiving the attention they deserve despite their great contribution to agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, says a global coalition for sustainable agricultural development.
The global coalition called Farming First launched a social media campaign early this month (7 March) that was aimed at exposing the gender gaps in agriculture.
“We wanted to start a conversation about whether the gender gaps in agriculture still exists. It is a fact that women farmers still grow [crops] less than men, so we asked the question, what specifically is it they cannot do?” posed Yvonne Harz-Pitre, co-chair of Farming First.

“We wanted to start a conversation about whether the gender gaps in agriculture still exists.”

Yvonne Harz-Pitre, Farming First

For example, in Nigeria and Kenya, only 30 per cent of agricultural scientists are females despite women being key to the rural economy, according to Harz-Pitre.
The gaps, she explains, has nothing to do with their ability, but somewhat the opportunity to access critical tools and training.
Harz-Pitre tells SciDev.Net that because women do not have equal access to the resources and services they need, they grow on average 20-30 per cent less crops than men, resulting in more people going hungry unnecessarily.
Empowering and investing in them, she notes, has shown significant increase in productivity, not only for women but for everyone.
The feedbacks from the coalition’s online campaign attributed the gender gaps to women’s lack of access to tools, training and information, thus resulting in lost agricultural output and economic growth. Closing the gender gap should be viewed as a business priority and an economic imperative.
Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, vice-president for country support, policy and delivery at the Kenya-headquartered Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), says that empowering women could cause a domino effect in African communities because if a woman is more productive, her increased income will be spent on the education, health and nutrition of her children.

Farming First highlights a case study involving Joyce Lali, a 45-year-old mother of seven from Erri village in Tanzania, who is the secretary of the Erri Jigegemee Beekeeping Group. “Before, we were oppressed by men and we didn’t earn any of our own money. We just stayed at home and looked after our children,” says Lali, in the case study. “The money I earn [now from beekeeping] means I can send my children to school.”

Jemimah Njuki, senior programme specialist, International Development Research Centre, tells SciDev.Net that innovations and research should reduce the care burden for women by changing the gender norms that define care work.

Njuki explains that it is critical to pass laws that ensure women have equal access to land, inputs, seeds, extension and financial services, post-harvest facilities and markets.

“Gender gaps are a symptom of gender inequality,” says Njuki. “In as much as women may have the same resources as men, there will still be a productivity gap mainly because of gender and social norms that create barriers for women.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.