One of the first steps towards accelerating women’s active participation in agriculture beyond primary production is to invest in women-led agricultural enterprises. But first African countries must step up and put their money in their mouths – a message at the heart of the fifth annual African Agri Investment Indaba (AAII).
The theme of the first day of the AAII was “The future of agriculture beyond African farms is women”. The event is currently taking place from November 14-16, 2022 at the CTICC in Cape Town and is the largest food and agriculture investment gathering on the African continent – representing the entire value chain.
The tone of the three-day event was a discussion on women in commercial agriculture and agribusiness, with speakers calling for a more holistic approach to upskilling women in the sector.
Access to land
Tatiana Mata, founder and managing director of the Elim Group in Mozambique, said that to have a conversation about increasing women’s participation in agriculture, the issue of access to land must be explored.
“For us to realize that there is women’s empowerment, we need women to own the land they cultivate. [Land that does] does not belong to the husband, family or tribal council, as long as it is worked by a woman. We need to see women owning the land,” Mata told delegates present.
She pointed out that collapsing infrastructure remains the biggest obstacle preventing women from thriving in agricultural spaces. This, as well as the availability of investment capital for women in particular.
Women supporting women in the fertilizer space
According to Mata, another way for African countries to accelerate the active participation of women in agriculture beyond primary production is to increase the number of women operating and working in the fertilizer industry.
Mata said women in rural areas across the continent wanted to farm, but access to fertilizer and other inputs discouraged them. Sometimes fertilizer arrived on farm properties when farmers no longer needed it.
“[Also] we need women who can support other women in the field of agricultural fertilizers, where money can be exchanged by a buyer and a producer who are both women.
Technology is where agriculture evolves
The indaba brings together over 1,100 key stakeholders – from governments, banks, financiers, investors, project owners, project developers, commercial farmers and the agribusiness – to discuss trends that are likely to influence the food and agribusiness economy over the next decade in Africa.
Now is the time for investors to direct their money towards women-led agricultural enterprises, said Susan Payne, managing director of investment group Holistic Agri. However, she cautioned that investment must go where the world is headed – technology.
Payne said agricultural technology is where women need to be. Not only for their own development, but also for the sustainability of their agricultural routes.
“If Africa wants to grow, it must invest in women-centered projects, because women lead society. Women are the most numerous in terms of population, so the money has to go there.
“It is important that funding is accompanied by training, transfer of skills and knowledge, because there is no reason to fund projects for which people do not have skills and training “, she added.
Investing Without Education Means Problems
The pre-conference workshop also explored the role of higher education institutions.
Wynand Espach, chief operating officer of Agri Colleges International, said it was important for higher education institutions to teach and impart knowledge about market needs.
A number of agricultural activities in South Africa take place in township areas as many people have space available to start their own food gardening or agricultural projects, he added.
“It is important that higher education institutions modify their curricula to respond to the market. Now is the time for drone farming, we need to up our game on that level,” Espach said.
Meanwhile, the head of the Free State House of Traditional Affairs, Kgosigadi Moroka, said ethical leadership was what the country needed to develop its agricultural sector and economy.
“We need people who are true to the course, we need men who support women and don’t see them as competitors. We must also play our part in fighting corruption and empowering women,” she said.
The second day of the AAII will begin with a keynote address by Dr Ivan Meyer, Minister of Agriculture of the Western Cape, on the role of agriculture in reforming Africa’s industrialization policy.
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