Women farmers in Africa are undervalued but are central to sustainable development for all. Image: PIxabay.

Despite complications created by COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, UN Women and Standard Bank are equipping women farmers in Africa with skills and resources to grow their businesses for long term success.

In October 2019, Standard Bank and UN Women partnered to empower more than 50,000 women farmers in Malawi, Uganda, Nigeria and South Africa through modern and environmentally friendly farming technologies that increase productivity and incomes.

Through the Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) collaboration, women farmers, authorities, local farmer organisations and cooperatives are addressing the structural inequalities in rural economies in Africa, starting with the difficulties that women face in securing tenure for quality farmland.

Standard Bank has provided funding worth $3million as well as ongoing support through financial literacy and other programmes.

Sola David-Borha, Chief Executive of Africa Regions at Standard Bank Group: “The CSA project supports Standard Bank’s drive to create a gender-equal Africa and aligns with our purpose of driving the continent’s growth. We believe it will meaningfully contribute to the upliftment of communities and the achievement of sustainable economic growth across Africa.”

Because of lockdowns and reduced social interactions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic digital technology is being used to conduct meetings where possible and messages are being delivered via community radio stations, SMSs and marketing material.

“This project is closely aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly when it comes to gender equality, access to decent work, and economic growth,” said Dr Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Women farmers in Africa are undervalued but are central to sustainable development

In Malawi, close to 6,000 female farmers have received support in the use of high-yield and drought-resistant groundnut seeds; implementation of modern farming methods that conserve moisture and maximise land-use; use of weather forecast information for the timely planting of groundnuts; use of market information and financial literacy sessions; and the adoption of modern farming technologies.

In Nigeria, the project is currently supporting 2,300 women beneficiary agri-business groups and cooperatives to increase the productivity and profitability of their operations within the rice and shea nut value chains. It will ultimately deliver assistance to 12,500 rural women in the country.

In South Africa, the project delivered agricultural inputs to 2,753 women farmers in the first half of 2020. These inputs include drought-resistant seeds of various crops, organic manure, farming equipment, and training on climate-smart agriculture.

In Uganda, 700 women have been equipped with the skills and technologies needed to run successful aquaculture operations. Over a quarter of a million high-quality fish fingerlings – of the Tilapia species – are being grown by the beneficiaries, using aquaculture technologies. The women have been supported through technical training, mentorship programmes, access to inputs including feeds, accommodation and business management skills.

“Women are the very backbone of rural economies and care of families and communities. Yet their contributions are undervalued and needs to be sufficiently acknowledged. Women’s economic empowerment is central to attaining gender equality and it is a prerequisite for inclusive and sustainable development. UN Women is committed to this expansion of this programme,” said Roberta Clarke, Senior Advisor, UN Women East and Southern Africa.

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