One of the first steps towards fast-tracking the active participation of women in agriculture beyond primary production is to invest in women-led agricultural enterprises. But African countries must first step up and put their money where their mouth is – a message at the core of the fifth annual African Agri Investment Indaba (AAII).
The theme on day one of the AAII was ‘The future of agriculture beyond Africa’s farm gates is women’. The event is currently taking place from 14 to 16 November 2022 at the CTICC in Cape Town and is the largest investment gathering in food and agriculture on the African continent – representing the entire value chain.
Setting the tone for the three-day event was a discussion on women in commercial agriculture and agro-processing, with speakers calling for a more holistic approach to leveling up women in the sector.
Access to land
Tatiana Mata, founder and managing director of Elim Group in Mozambique, said in order to have a conversation around increased women-participation in agriculture, the issue of access to land must be explored.
“For us to realise that there is women empowerment, we need women to own the land that they are farming on. [Land that does] not belong to the husband or family or tribal council, while it is being worked by a woman. We need to see women owning the land,” Mata told delegates in attendance.
She pointed out that collapsing infrastructure remains the biggest barrier preventing women from flourishing in agricultural spaces. This, along with the availability of investment capital for women specifically.
Women supporting women in fertiliser space
According to Mata, another way African countries can fast-track active participation of women in agriculture beyond primary production, is by upping the number of women who operate and work in the fertiliser industry.
Mata said women in rural areas across the continent have a desire to farm, but access to fertilisers and other inputs dishearten them. At times, fertilisers would arrive on farming properties when farmers no longer need it.
“[Also] we need women who can support other women in the agricultural fertiliser space, where the money can be exchanged by a buyer and producer both being women.”
Technology is where agriculture’s moving
The indaba brings together over 1 100 key stakeholders – from governments, banks, financiers, investors, project owners, project developers, commercial farmers and the agro and food processing industry – to discuss trends that will likely influence food and agribusiness economics over the next decade in Africa.
The time is now for investors to gear their money towards women-led agricultural enterprises, said chief executive of Holistic Agri investment group Susan Payne. However, she cautioned that investment must go into where the world is heading – technology.
Payne said that agricultural technology is the space where women needed to be. Not only for their own development but for the sustainability of their farming journeys as well.
“If Africa wants to grow, it needs to invest in women-centred projects because women are leading the society. Women are the highest in terms of the population, so the money needs to go there.
“Importantly, funding needs to come with training, transfer of skills and knowledge because there is no reason for funding projects that people do not have skills and training for, “she added.
Investment without education spells trouble
The pre-conference workshop also explored the role of higher education institutions.
Wynand Espach, chief operations officer of Agri Colleges International, said it was important that institutions of higher learning teach and impart knowledge of what the market needs are.
Quite a number of agricultural activities in South Africa take place in township areas because many people have space available to start their own food gardening or agricultural projects, he added.
“It is important that institutions of higher learning change their courses to meet the market. Now it is time for drone farming, we need to up our game to that level,” Espach said.
Meanwhile, leader of the House of Traditional Affairs in the Free State Kgosigadi Moroka said ethical leadership is what the country needs to grow its agricultural sector and economy.
“We need people who are true to the course, we need men who support women and not see them as their competitors. We also need to play our part in fighting corruption and empowering women,” she said.
Day two of the AAII will kick off with a keynote address by Dr Ivan Meyer, Western Cape minister of agriculture, on agriculture’s role in Africa’s industrialisation policy reform.
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