[Column] Kalongo Chitengi: An inclusive approach to sustainable agriculture
For over a century the world has marked the month of March with tributes to women for strides made in elevating women’s achievements.
The 2020 International Women’s Day (IWD) theme #EachforEqual reminds us that this period of celebration is also about the pursuit to live in an equitable world where women’s roles in society, places of work and homes are based on their abilities rather than gender. Currently in agricultural development, there is a surge in discourse around the ferminization of agriculture.
Through AGCO’s experiences in rural Africa, we know first-hand that addressing the gender gap in agriculture is beyond a political objective but rather a socio-economic imperative if we are to improve the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply.
Women’s role in Agriculture
In 2015, AGCO, a global leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of smart farming solutions, planted the seed for the AGCO Future Farm Training & Learning Centre in Lusaka, Zambia to empower the continent’s farmers. The aim of the centre is to be a catalyst in the development of a sustainable and prosperous agricultural industry in Africa, as the world now looks to the continent to address shortages in food production.
For two years we have provided short and long-term courses in mechanisation and agronomy training and soon discovered that while rural women in Africa produce more than 70% of agricultural production for household consumption or to trade at local markets, the local women farmers did not think this opportunity was for them! This is because women continue to remain largely in the background of the agricultural sector and do not envision themselves participating economically or in positions of leadership in agribusinesses.
Their role remains in production at subsistence and commercial levels, as unpaid workers on family farms and as paid or unpaid labourers in agricultural operations involving crops, livestock and fish farming.
According to the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries is comprised of women, with Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) higher than the global average, at 50 percent. In fact, in SSA, women who are employed are more likely to be working in agriculture than in any other sector. That is, more than 60 percent of employed women in SSA work in agriculture.
Research clearly shows that when Africa’s female farmers thrive, everyone benefits; from the women themselves, the children they care for, the communities they feed, and the economies in which they contribute. AGCO has partnered with initiatives such as Africa Food360 Accelerator, a regional trade and learning exchange program between Zambia, Namibia and South Africa, focusing on empowering female agro-processors and farmers to be able to address challenges such as nutrition, climate change, food security and sustainable markets in the African food systems.
To date, our mechanization and agronomy training programme has benefitted over 700 agropreneurs, small and emerging farmers locally and the farm has proven a great academic research site benefiting learning towards various agriculture studies for students and farmers.
In 2020 AGCO made further investment into the AGCO Future Farm Training & Learning Centre infrastructure to ensure training material is accessible to farmers in remote parts of the continent. An online platform for distance learning on agronomy theory will be launched in April and the construction of student accommodation, canteen, community hall and an Insaka – traditional homestead for interactive outdoor learning, are well underway.