Gender gaps in agriculture in Africa are holding back progress towards ending hunger and must be urgently addressed, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at a joint event with the African Union (AU) on the margins of the UN General Assembly.
“We need to better recognize and harness the fundamental contribution of women to food security and nutrition. For that, we must close persisting gender gaps in agriculture in Africa,” Graziano da Silva said.
The Director-General called for better representation of women in governance mechanisms and decision-making processes, as well as adequate and equal access to land, financial resources, social protection programmes, services and opportunities for women in rural areas.
Addressing gender gaps
The findings and recommendations of the AU-FAO study The Regional Outlook on Gender and Agrifood Systems were presented at the event. The Outlook is based on an extensive review of existing statistics, gender audits of 38 National Agricultural Investment Plans and in-depth country gender assessments carried out in 40 countries.
The study’s recommendations call for a “gender data revolution” in the agri-food sector to inform sound policies and programmes, and elevating the gender benchmarks in planning, monitoring and accountability.
“We need to put in place gender targeted programmes that address women’s specific vulnerabilities but also their key role in household nutrition and resilience,” Graziano da Silva said.
“Evidence shows that when women are empowered, farms are more productive, natural resources are better managed, nutrition is improved, and livelihoods are more secure,” he added.
The backbone of rural production
In some African countries, women account for up to 60 percent of the labour force in family farming. They are largely responsible for agricultural activities such as growing vegetables, preserving harvests and raising small ruminants such as sheep and goats. Women are also responsible for family nutrition through the preparation of meals.
Closing productivity gaps could increase food production and consumption by up to 10 percent and reduce poverty by up to 13 percent.
If women have the same access to skills, resources and opportunities as men, they can be powerful drivers in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Empowering women in agriculture, value chains and trade will accelerate the achievement of the Malabo Commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals.
FAO and UN Women: building momentum on gender equality
On the sidelines of the event, FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo met with UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director Asa Regner.
UN Women recently commended FAO for its achievements so far in gender equality. In 2017, FAO met or exceeded 93 percent of all performance indicators under the UN System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.
“FAO recognizes the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment – both within the Organization and in our work where gender is a major priority. We know that when women have decision-making power, all of society benefits,” Semedo said.
“The partnership between UN Women and FAO has proven especially fruitful in turning words into concrete action. I look forward to continued, strengthened cooperation between the two agencies to unlock the potential of rural women and girls as agents of change,” Regner said.
Equality in action
FAO and partners are providing technical support to many African countries in order to empower rural women. One example is the Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Women in Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger and Rwanda, implemented with the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and UN Women. The Programme has already enabled more than 40,000 women to receive training on improved agricultural technologies, and aims to enhance their access to financial services and markets.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Meanders at Kiboino village along Iten-Kabarnet road. The road is famous for its tens of corners between Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.[Denish Ochieng, Standard]
Faults.” By the way, suppose Gregory never happened on the scene, what would you have called this fissure? The vast valley, formed when the core of the earth heaved and sighed millions of years ago as a result of volcanic activity, is visible from space and runs from Lebanon in the Middle East to Mozambique in the southern part of Africa. Yet, it is the immense natural beauty and diverse cultures that make a visit to this region worthwhile. Late last year, during the small window that allowed for some travel, I hooked up with Ben, a birding expert for an exploratory tour of the Rift Valley. Now Ben is one man who can tell one bird from another even in his sleep. He will spend copious amounts of time combing every bush for that rare bird few can identify. The adventure starts at the eastern escarpment that drops towards Mai Mahiu. The unwritten rule is to stop and take in the enchanting vistas that stretch beyond the valley floor as far as the eye can see because the most beautiful things in life are free. From here, the conical Mount Longonot looms large, another product of the volcanic activity that created a caldera when part of the volcano collapsed. Since our aim was to make it to Baringo by early afternoon, a quick glimpse of the expanse was enough. We got to Nakuru by midday. The sweltering heat was becoming unbearable, a sharp contrast to the cloudy weather back in Nairobi. “If you think Nakuru is hot, wait till you get to Baringo,” warned a security guard at a mall in Nakuru.
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True to his words, the terrain became harsh past Kabarak. Trees, bereft of leaves dotted the countryside. Lake Bogoria Spa was our next pit stop. In the harsh terrain, the hotel stands out like a diamond in the rough. On a good day, guests are entertained by Tugen dancers just before dinner. It was in this hotel that I got to taste mursik for the first time. I say on a good day because there was little activity at the hotel as the effects of Covid-19 wore on. The hotel is named after the nearby Lake Bogoria, one of the four Rift Valley lakes to the north.
Flamingos at Lake Bogoria National Reserve in Baringo county on January 20, 2021.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
Bogoria also marks the divide between the northern lakes of Baringo, Turkana and the ‘Masai’ lakes of Nakuru, Elementaita and Magadi. Lake Bogoria is set at the bottom of the 600-metre Ngendelel Escarpment. Bogoria could not have been set in a more bleak environment. It lacks an outlet, but the high alkalinity in the lake has been a factor in the propagation of the blue-green algae that is at the core of the lake’s global fame. Still, the stench from the algae is enough to make you puke. How, you may wonder, would such seemingly useless substance bring visitors from around the world? You see, Bogoria is known for harbouring thousands of flamingos. Though they do feed on some small fish, the algae is not only their main source of food but their vibrant pink colour as well. The algae contains beta-carotene, a water-based bacteria with a reddish-orange pigment. When the bacteria dissolves in the birds’ fat, it is then deposited in feathers and as the birds grow, their colour slowly shifts to pink. Got it? Thus, a well-fed flamingo will have a deeper shade of pink and will make a formidable mate while a pale one could as well be content in the singles club. In the flamingo world, you are what you eat! Sadly, his beautiful phenomenon is slowly fading away, thanks to the current phenomenon of rising Rift Valley lakes. For the last 10 years, the water in Lake Bogoria has risen to unprecedented levels, diluting the alkalinity and making it difficult for the flamingoes to survive. A similar phenomenon greeted us in Baringo. At Kampi ya Samaki, scores of men washed their motorcycles on the road, now part of the lake.
Some of the buildings submerged at Soi Safari Lodge after Lake Baringo swelled on July 21, 2020.[Kipsang Joseph, Standard]
We had anticipated to lodge at the nearby Soi Safari Lodge, but this one too has been eaten up by the lake. And so are Robert’s Camp and Lake Baringo Country Club, the region’s favourite safari destinations. We were content staying in a nondescript haven on the water’s edge. For some sense of serenity, we took the vertical ascent towards Kabarnet, the town set on a hill, one side overlooking the Iten escarpment. Kabarnet sits on top of Kerio Valley, undoubtedly one of the most scenic locations in Kenya. Three minutes from Kabarnet, we pull over to the side of the road to take in the endless beauty of the valley below, where, as my primary school teacher told me, is the source of fluorspar. If the landscape does not stir any emotions on your part, the Kabarnet-Iten Road surely does. On such terrain, constructing a road vertically presented many challenges. In order to minimise the gradient, the engineers simply made numerous twists and turns, coils upon coils of tarmac meandering all the way to the top. While this was not their intention, the winding road has become part of the region’s tourist attraction. My two days in the geological museum that John Gregory called the Rift Valley revealed some secrets that make the region tick. Here, the remains of animals and plants lie fossilised, awaiting a new discovery.