Summary by AGRA Watch intern Sarah Muniz
In Africa, about 60% of people work as small-scale food producers in some capacity, and at least half of those are women. Women play a critical role in agriculture, including in sorting, saving, and sharing seeds. A recent report entitled African Women Speak Out for Agroecology details how the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems has been working rural communities across several African nations to promote local, agroecological and equitable food systems, helping to expand their outreach and community support. The Collaborative incorporates agroecology into the local food systems, supports women farmers, supports land and seed rights, and advocates for chemical-free farming practices and crop diversification. These are key components of a healthy food system.
Numerous factors pose challenges for agroecology and healthy food systems, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, lack of land rights, restrictions to local seeds, and limited access to lines of credit. Though rural women farmers face significant barriers, the Collaborative has collected stories from many women who demonstrate resilience and optimism. Women farmers shared with the Collaborative that they’re growing organic crops that are used in traditional cuisine, including cassava, groundnuts, millet, sorghum, and sweet potatoes, which have good nutritional value, are shared among families in their communities, and are typically climate resilient. Some women cited in the report share that agroecological practices have also strengthened community ties, expanded horizontal knowledge sharing, and improved social well-being. Achieving women’s full participation in the food system is critical to improving food security, and reducing malnutrition and other negative health outcomes. The Collaborative urges that women be granted adequate resources to sustainably support themselves and produce healthy foods using agroecological methods. The support for agroecology continues to grow, but the demand for systemic change requires more collaborations and partnerships with small-scale women farmers.