FILE PHOTO: Workers harvest tobacco at a farm outside Harare, Zimbabwe, February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/File Photo

More women in Zimbabwe have ventured into farming as a means of livelihood amid tough economic times in the Southern African country.

Traditionally, women in Zimbabwe did not take up any major roles in agriculture, leaving it mostly to men. But a new crop of ladies has taken up a bigger role in the sector.

“Women have always played a vital role in agriculture, but a silent one, behind the scenes…but things are changing. We are starting to see more and more young female faces in commercial farming, including in positions of influence,” Xinhua quotes Anastasia Guni, a 33-year-old woman who runs a poultry business in Macheke.

Women from Zimbabwe’s rural areas form the backbone of the agricultural labor force. However, they generally work as subsistence farmers, or as casual wage laborers.

According to the National Gender Profile of Agriculture, rural women constitute about 70 percent of household labor in rural areas.

Guni said while women are a force to be reckoned with in the agriculture sector, they are also burdened with domestic roles such as caring for children, the elderly, and the sick.

Women in Agriculture Union (WAU) National Coordinator Olga Nhari said the economic benefits of farming have enticed more young women to venture into farming and agribusiness value addition.

“The world is evolving. Africa is evolving and right now agriculture that’s where the business is, that’s where the money is, even the young generation are beginning to see it,” Xinhua quotes Nhari.

The government has also over the past years prioritized the allocation of land to women and youth as part of its efforts to ensure that they fully participate in economic development.

In an effort to support women entrepreneurs financially, in 2018 the Zimbabwean government set up the Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank to specifically provide financial aid to women and youth.

The bank’s overall goal is to help women business owners to overcome the lack of collateral that holds back many potential female entrepreneurs from realizing their dreams by disbursing loans for various income-generating projects.

According to the World Bank, closing the gender gap in agriculture could increase yields on women-run farms by 20-30 percent, a development that could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 percent.

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