What Works: Women and Agriculture

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By Matt Styslinger

This post is part of a new series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!

Women make up anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of small scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Projects that prioritize the needs of women are key in promoting food security in this region. Currently, according to ActionAid, only 10 percent of international donor funding is directed at women farmers. From access to credit to knowledge sharing of low-cost innovations, improving the income of women farmers translates to better nutrition for families.

Women make up anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of small scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

In Rwanda, the Farmers of the Future Initiative (FOFI) helps to empower young girls and other students by integrating school gardens and agriculture training into primary school curriculums. Over 60 percent of students in Rwanda will return to rural areas to farm after graduating, rather than attending secondary school or university. While both young boys and girls benefit from the training, it is especially important for young girls to learn these skills to give them food and financial security.

In the Maradi area in south central Niger, where 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the months before the harvest are called “the hunger season.” From mid-July to mid-September, food supplies are at their lowest and most families only eat one meal a day. But with the help of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), many women are taking local food security into their own hands. IFAD’s Project for the Promotion of Local Initiative for Development in Aguie helped to create a new kind of bank, run entirely by women, that dispenses loans in the form of cereal instead of money. The banks help to empower women who are often left out of community-wide organizations and decision-making.

In Kibera—sub-Saharan Africa’s largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, where anywhere from 700,000 to one million people live—women farmers, with training and seeds provided by the French NGO Solidarites, are growing vegetable farms in sacks filled with dirt. More than 1,000 women are growing food in this way and during the food crisis in Kenya during 2007 and 2008, when conflict in Nairobi prevented food from coming into the area, most residents did not go hungry because there were so many of these ‘vertical farms.’

These projects and innovations are inspiring, and we know that there are many more. Do you know of any projects that are helping to empower and support food security for women?

Tell Nourishing the Planet what works and have your answers featured on the blog. Email me at Dnierenberg@Worldwatch.org or tweet your response to @WorldWatchAg

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