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UN Women calls for government and private sector to aid women in agriculture and agri-business

Poor access to Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) Technologies and Inputs in South Africa thwarts the progress and productivity of women involved in agriculture.

There is a clear message from a study commissioned by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women South African Multi-Country Office (UN Women SAMCO), under the auspices of the project “Contributing to the Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa through Climate-Smart Agriculture” a program that is implemented in four African countries, Nigeria, Uganda, Malawi and South Africa, with financial support from Standard Bank of South Africa.

“The problem is that although women participate in agriculture as primary producers and in accompanying value chain activities, in South Africa their support systems have not been adequately resourced,” said the South African Multi-Country Office (UN Women SAMCO).

Involvement of women in agriculture is paramount to household food and nutrition security as they play an integral part in agricultural production and food systems.

About 384 smallholder women farmers from Limpopo and Free State provinces drawn from farmer organisations such as the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa (AFASA), South African Women in Farming (SAWIF) were interviewed during the scoping and baseline study conducted by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in partnership with the National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC). The study found that over 50% of these women farmers did not have access to CSA technologies and improved seeds and other inputs.

FANRPAN together with UN Women are among a wide range of actors advocating for Climate-Smartt Agriculture as a critical approach to enhance farmer’s climate resilience when confronted by the effects of climate change and variability in the agricultural sector. CSA is an integrated approach which uses a combination of technologies and practices to meet food and nutrition security goals while adapting to, and mitigating climate change. In practice, it means having access to agricultural technologies, practices, and approaches which respond to a continually changing climate. CSA also focuses on improved weather forecasting, early warning systems, reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, where possible and insurance to help farmers reduce risk.

In the study, women farmers were asked to identify CSA technologies and practices that they felt they needed the most to build their adaptive capacities. Disaster and risk management, drought mitigation cropping system, irrigation and water resource management, and solar energy systems were some of the technologies identified. Such preferred methods proved otherwise expensive, and without government and private sector involvement, UN Women fears that the future for food and nutrition security efforts would be negatively affected.

“Because of smallholder farmers low household wealth status and incomes, and low farming revenues, it may not be straightforward to assume that these farmers will be able to access the CSA technologies without the help of government support and the private sector” added FANRPAN.

Furthermore, UN Women SAMCO is of the view that, if CSA messages do not filter down to women through local dialogues, especially for those in rural areas, their agricultural productivity, resilience, and economic growth will be adversely affected”.

Interestingly enough, the study found that over 60% of women interviewed have access to radio, television, and cell-phone. Such potential communication platforms could be used for climate change adaptation messaging. This is however, not easy as the agricultural media environment in South Africa is solely commercially orientated. Public TV and radio platforms are proving incapable of delivering consistent agricultural content to the wider public.

The important message from the baseline and scoping study will enhance the development interventions by government departments and other organizations working to improve the conditions of women farmers so that CSA can offer economic and food & Nutrition security opportunities for women farmers. However, there is a need to improve access and uptake of CSA technologies by rural women farmers. Climate-Smart Agriculture approaches could potentially be used in the production of vegetables, legumes and grain crops.

The study was commissioned by the United Nations (UN) Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). In South Africa, the South African Multi-Country Office (UN Women SAMCO), is implementing the project “Contributing to the Economic Empowerment of Women in South Africa through Climate-Smart Agriculture,”. The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), in partnership with National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC) – the FANRPAN country Node in South Africa, conducted the study titled “Scoping and Baseline Survey for Implementation of the Climate-Smart Agriculture Project in South Africa”.

UN Women calls for government and private sector to aid women in agriculture and agri-business
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