Africa Should Empower Women To Address Food Security, Say Experts

Nairobi Kenya: Star News
Africa Should Empower Women To Address Food Security

December 7, 2015

Food insecurity is a major problem that is experienced in the developing nations particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

It is expected the population will continue to rise through the next decades. This means more food is required to meet the needs of the increasing population.

Ensuring sustainable food security calls for the adoption of a different approach. There is a need to address gender inequalities.

A 2011 report by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the condition of agriculture and food indicated that one of the reasons the agriculture sector was below par in its performance was gender inequalities in resources distribution.

Supporting women with the necessary resources and opportunities to increase their productivity will ensure increased agricultural output and food security; fewer people will die of hunger. It will broaden the social and economic gains.

Most women are not empowered in terms of knowledge and social and economic power. Women in rural areas are more affected.

While speaking to a group of farmers in Nyando on improving livelihoods and addressing climate change, Catherine Mungai, a gender and livelihoods specialist at the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) said: “We should value the contribution of women over the years in addressing food security”.

“Women have the ability to improve the food situation of their households and that of the community if given equal chances as the men do, to access resources, information and empowered economically,” she added.

Through knowledge acquisition, women in Nyando are engaging in activities that change the status of their families concerning food availability by diversifying their options.

A majority of them are members of village savings and credit initiatives that give them the economic power to expand their activities. Through the initiatives, some of them own property such as livestock.

The area faces huge risks of climate variability, including floods and prolonged droughts. The community can no longer rely on rain-fed agriculture. Their lands cannot sustain or support crop production.

A majority of rural women have no power to make decisions about land use and land management. It is the men who have the authority to decide on when and what to be planted in the

The same men can decide to lease out the land, leaving their women with no place to cultivate for food production.

While the inequality exists, more than 30 per cent of rural households in sub-Saharan African are headed by women as compared to less than 20 per cent in the Caribbean and Asia.

The figures could go up as the number of men migrating out of the rural areas to the urban centres rises. Lack of employment and other sources of income are forcing men to abandon
their homes for towns.

Empowering women will draw us closer to achieving our 2015 sustainable development goals numbers one, five and 11.

Focusing on number one and five, which are: no poverty and gender equality, respectively, will help us arrive at number 11, which is sustainable cities and communities.

Reducing the gender gap calls for the adoption of a bottom-up approach to building the capacities of women. We need to start helping women in the grassroots understand their rights and improve their ability to change their situations.

Women possess the solutions to food insecurity. They only require a little push and support to grow past the gender inequalities.

The government and the civil societies, as well as the private sector, should come together to support women as they are significant agents of change in the society.

There is a need to train more women on agribusiness, initiate projects that empower women and address challenges of food security. Priority should be given to drought-prone areas such as northern Kenya.

Women require knowledge and skills in developing and implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies as a response to food shortage.

The climate variability and climate change risks are likely to intensify as human beings go about their activities as usual and do little to address risks. This means more instances of floods and prolonged dry spells that impede food production, and
food availability will occur.

According to World Food Programme, climate shocks disproportionately impinge on the most vulnerable people at risk of hunger, particularly women and children.

Improving market functionality is also essential to deal with threats to food security. Households need to be sure of food availability in the market throughout the year. Women, being the main food stores and vendors, need to be certain of the market functionality.

Caroline Kibii is an Environmentalist