Women are the backbone of African agriculture. They produce some 80 per cent of food and account for almost 50 per cent of employment in the sector. Nevertheless, women often lack access to training opportunities because of sociocultural barriers.
The African Union (AU) launched the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) back in 2003 as a strategy for agricultural growth and food security. Without specific support to more gender equality, continental CAADP goals are virtually unreachable.
GIZ is supporting CAADP at multiple levels and cooperating with the AU and its planning and coordination agency (NEPAD). Besides improving the political framework on the entire continent and specifically in AU member states, there is also direct promotion for women in agricultural vocational training and education. This is the only way to make full use of their potential in increasing agricultural productivity and profitability on the continent.
The project Women in ATVET (Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training) is a module of the GIZ CAADP support programme, and is being implemented in six partner countries: Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and Togo. The aim is to give women in these countries better access to formal and informal training and education in the food and agriculture industry.
Project activities go beyond the question of gender mainstreaming: to ensure that changes are effective and lasting, project staff and partner institutions operate intensively with gender transformative approaches.
These go beyond the issue of gender equality. It is not sufficient to measure the share of women with improved access to education (gender equality), it is also necessary to ask how the role of women and their position in society have changed through improved access to agricultural vocational education and training (gender transformation).
Innovative concepts for projects have already been developed in four of the six countries for removing existing barriers to women in the agricultural sector. Promising local examples have been further developed and can be implemented in future on a broad basis. These projects are a good example of progress:
Ghana: Women in the driving seat – training women to drive and maintain tractors to question established gender roles
Kenya: Train and flourish – training, coaching and mentoring in order to improve management competence of women in management positions in agricultural enterprises
Benin: Going green in Benin – women make natural fertiliser for growing organic products and increase their income by selling it
Malawi: Succeeding together – a successful married couple open the way for women as leading vegetable producers in Malawi by offering training and further education opportunities in their enterprise.
All pilot projects focus on context-specific ideas and success stories with the potential to contribute to far-reaching, sustainable and gender transformative change. Without focusing on women, transformation processes cannot be advanced in African agriculture. This is why there is truth in the saying: ‘If you educate a man, you educate one person. If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.’
Miriam Heidtmann, Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit (giz) GmbH, Eschborn/Bonn, Germany