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Women and agroecology

Photo credit: Farming Matters

Perspectives: Shifting African policy towards women and agroecology

The role of rural women and smallholder farmers in African society has been highly undervalued. This is so despite the fact that around 80% of Africa’s population is dependent on smallholder agriculture, it is the backbone of the rural economy, and women provide over two-thirds of the farm labour. There is clear evidence that agroecology is crucial for women farmers. Now we face the challenge of discovering how its principles can best be promoted and how practice can inform policy at local and national level.

Farming Matters | 31.4 | December 2015

Recently, we have seen unequivocal changes in policies that are transforming African agriculture to facilitate a ‘Green Revolution’. These policies articulate and promote a form of agriculture that focuses on monocropping, expensive external inputs such as agrochemicals and synthetic fertilizers, hybrid/GM seeds and large-scale land acquisition. These changes in policies are a result of government alliance with institutions such as the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), multilateral institutions, donors and multinational corporations that aim to produce a layer of commercial surplus producers.  This was reaffirmed in a report published by African Centre for Biodiversity in 2014. For example, soil and seed programmes under AGRA tend to favour the introduction of synthetic fertilizers while supporting and preparing institutional and technical grounds for Public-Private Partnerships in the seed sector.

The G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) in Africa was launched in 2012, where 10 African countries made numerous policy commitments in order to ensure agricultural transformation within their countries and ultimately to ‘lift 50 million people out of poverty in 10 years’. The initiative is largely dominated by multinationals.  It requires states to revise their seed, land and tax policies and legislation in order to secure investment.
Such policy changes are evidenced through the adoption of Intellectual Property see laws by African countries at the national and regional level. These seed laws give strong rights to commercial breeders while restricting farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell protected varieties/seeds and propagating materials. They favour the use and adoption of improved varieties that are uniformly bred and that must be used with agrochemicals in order to attain high yields.
Read the full article: Farming Matters

Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.