Women Seen Key to Solving Hunger Issues in Africa

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sub-Saharan Africa faces daunting problems staving off famine in coming decades but food and development experts also say one solution to the problem is obvious: empower women.

“They are the major producers of food crops in Africa. If we want to make a real headway on food production, we should be able to invest in women, improve their skills and access to the inputs they require,” said Namanga Ngongi, president, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a top seed producer.

“Women don’t need more work,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Food Prize meetings here. “They are working enough. We need technologies that increase the productivity and reduce the amount of labor. They work a lot in the fields,” he said.

Ngongi and other development and agriculture officials said that women are also a key to land reform in many sub-Saharan Africa, where land is often owned by communities.

“There must be some ways of organizing a little bit better the rights of the people who are the major producers of food in Africa. It is largely women who are in the food crops. Men are in the cash crops, like cocoa, coffee,” said Ngongi.

“It’s critically important that if you want to address hunger, particularly in Africa, to focus on the women because it’s their role to feed the family,” said Ritu Sharma, president of Women Thrive Worldwide, a speaker at the Forum.

Women from Kenya to Liberia now plant and tend the key food crops like corn, sorghum, millet, sweet potatoes, casaba and peas. More than half of Africa’s farmers are women, with most tending crops on small plots of land they can’t own.

Source: Reuters (link opens in a new window)