Debate

Strengthen the role of women in African agriculture!

Malawi's agriculture was recently described as a success story but is now facing problems again. How could it go so wrong? Could a female President of the African Union and a female President of Malawi make a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty and the need to achieve more equal living conditions? This is the question of Linley Chiwona-Karltun and Inge Gerremo, who are both active at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)

In 2010, President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, then also President of the African Union, AU, declared an "Africa Food and Nutrition Security Day" to be celebrated on 30 October each year. The importance of addressing food and nutrition issues in Africa was emphasized by the African Heads of State at the 15th EU Summit in Kampala, Uganda in July 2010. The New Partnership for Africa's Development Partnership (NEPAD), the African Union's Joint Development Program, would intensify efforts. poverty reduction, promote sustainable development, strengthen the integration of African countries into the world economy and, inter alia, increase women's active participation. NEPAD would ensure that Africa reached its share of the Millennium Development Goals. Ten years later, Africa is still far from reaching its goals, albeit with some hopeful exceptions. When the new and first female chair of the AU, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, took over the presidency this year, she was able to state that only 20% of NEPAD's budget came from the countries themselves. How could Africa think it could achieve sustainable development when 80% of the money for this came from outside? Is there any real will among African countries to eradicate hunger and poverty, was her question, when such limited own resources are allocated?

In 2005, a stubborn president of a small, poor country, Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, decided to defy the World Bank and the EU by providing the country's farmers with subsidized fertilizers and hybrid corn seeds. Within two years, Malawi went from a "begging country to a corn exporter." In 2012, Malawi is once again facing a food crisis.

In 2005, a stubborn president of a small, poor country, Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, decided to defy the World Bank and the EU by providing the country's farmers with subsidized fertilizers and hybrid corn seeds. Within two years, Malawi went from a "begging country to a corn exporter." In 2012, Malawi is once again facing a food crisis.

There are many explanatory factors. According to Africa Renewal Online, this is due to the concentration of power to a single person, self-willed leadership and an excessive reliance on aid. But there are also other important factors such as missing or delayed rain which means that the farmers can not plan their sowing etc. on the farms. Many times it has been said and written about how increased irrigation could significantly improve food supply, not least in Malawi where Lake Malawi is Africa's third largest lake. We believe, in this context, that technical solutions are only part of the answer. We also believe that a little more of "female common sense" could give Malawi better conditions for a stable food supply.

Since Malawi's new female president, Joyce Banda, took office earlier this year, she has experienced a number of setbacks. Bl.a. A 50% devaluation of the Malawian currency has made it much more expensive to buy the necessary basic goods. Malawi's agricultural policy is now focused on protein-rich and drought-resistant crops and on, among other things, goats to deal with the uncertain rains that affect maize cultivation. The drought has led the president to travel around the country handing out corn and cornmeal to the needy. This in turn has caused dissatisfaction among others who have also suffered from famine. Why is it so slow for Malawi, despite President Joyce Banda winning an award for her work to fight hunger, the Africa Award for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger?

How many times have we not read or seen the figure "four-fifths of basic food in sub-Saharan Africa is grown by women?". Compare that with how many times have we seen or heard of a female African agriculture minister?

Less than a third of Malawi's government members are women. As long as women are a minority in key positions of power in Africa, it seems impossible to achieve real change. How many times have we not read or seen the figure "four-fifths of basic food in sub-Saharan Africa is grown by women?". Compare that with how many times have we seen or heard of a female African agriculture minister? If women in Africa have such a great responsibility when it comes to food production and food security, should it be very important that such a heavy post is held by a well-qualified woman? They exist!

Nearly four-fifths of basic food in sub-Saharan Africa is grown, as mentioned, by women. But, when it comes to agricultural policy, including the important work in the breeding and sales stages, men still totally dominate. In other words, women must be given support for and a more prominent role in the agriculture of developing countries. Right now, when climate negotiations, once again, have failed in Doha, it is even more important that we do not just 'talk' about climate change. It is very important to identify and support concrete efforts. One of these is about how we can strengthen the role of women in the fight against hunger and poverty through improvements in agriculture. These are research experiences that clearly emerge in connection with the Swedish government's special investment in global food supply and which were discussed at the symposium organized by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Makerere University last week with the participation of over 100 African and Swedish researchers.

Now that one of Africa's countries, Malawi, has finally shown that democracy can work and elected a female president, why are no more voices being heard in support of development there?

Sweden is a good example of how women at the political level have been able and can influence issues concerning food, health and general well-being. Now that one of Africa's countries, Malawi, has finally shown that democracy can work and elected a female president, why are no more voices being heard in support of development there? Where is the interest in more long-term Swedish agricultural support to Malawi? Are we waiting for another famine so that we can send food and rattle with our collection boxes? Malawi has shown that it can produce enough food and much more than that. Why not strengthen the work on the new green and environmentally sustainable revolution that is now needed there? Take the opportunity to support Malawi's small farmers, essentially synonymous with women, now that the country is led by a female president!

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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