By Paul Ndiho
May 10, 2010
Women are responsible for at least 70 percent of Africa’s food crop production. They also play important roles in food processing and marketing, and animal husbandry and making decisions on the farm.
In sub-Saharan Africa, most women work in agriculture. They spend much of their day performing field work, growing food and crops for their families in addition to caring for the children. Like many African women, Esther Winjero Njorogo is her family’s main food provider. But she struggles to farm her plot in Kenya due to unpredictable rains.
“It’s very difficult to get water. I have to wait for rain then I have to look for money to buy fertilizers and manure.”
During the dry season, Njorogo spends most her time pumping water to irrigate her crops. Feister Mumbi Kimuya, is another concerned Kenyan small-scale commercial farmer, who grows tomatoes and maize and raises chickens for eggs to sell in the markets.
“When we are farming we see that our crops are not doing very well because we don’t the technical expertise to farm those crops.”
Many African women farmers grow food on small patches of land, and Feister Kimuya says that most rural farmers use crop rotation to make the most of these plots. Her family farming business has grown steadily in the last few years.
Women farmers in Kenya are hungry for innovative, concrete business ideas according to David Kauck, with the International Center for Research on Women. He says that rural women in Kenya need more access to credit, training, fertilizer and seeds.
“In Africa we can’t talk about agriculture without talking about the role of women. Women are involved in every part of the production, in transforming food crops, processing, marketing and transporting the crops to the market.”
Rural women farmers in Ghana also do not have access to formal financial services. Speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington, Lydia Sasu, with Ghana’s Development Action Association says women in Ghana are not part of decision-making bodies that shape farming policy in their homeland.
“Rural women are doing a fantastic job. They produce about 80% of the food in the country, they take care of their children, educated them, take care of their produce and even market it. Looking at the roles they play, their voice need to be heard and we want them to be part of the decision making process.”
Agriculture experts say that hunger and the cycle of poverty in Africa are two of the most significant challenges that face the continent today. Studies show that improving agriculture is the most effective driver of growth in developing countries.