Women farmers decry lack of support

SHARE   |   Monday, 17 August 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
Delegates from SADC countries in a discussion on challenges affecting woman small scake farmers in Southern Africa Delegates from SADC countries in a discussion on challenges affecting woman small scake farmers in Southern Africa PIC: RICARDO KANONO

Ineffective policies and strategies have been blamed for the continued under performance of small scale farmers in the Southern African Development Committee (SADC) region. This is despite the resolutions made by countries to promote the active participation of these farmers in all aspects of agricultural food production.
The concern has been raised by the Economic Justice Network and OXFAM during the Agriculture and investment in small scale farmers’ commission discussion on Thursday. The two organisations have shown displeasure at the countries for not adhering to the Maputo declaration. 
In 2003 African countries agreed to allocate at least 10% of their budgetary resources towards agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years. However, according to OXFAM Southern Africa, 10 years later countries are still lacking behind on meeting the resolutions.
This has not come out well to small scale farmers who feel their government are not doing enough to help them. Some women small scale farmers from the SADC region even hit hard at their head of states for lack of support.  The women are complaining that their respective governments are very reluctant to help them giving priority to large scale farmers.
One of the small scale farmers from South Africa Florah Maswanganyi said women are the most affected of all parties as they are the ones who mostly carry the burden of providing the socio-economic needs of their families. Maswanganyi pointed that in her country only 3% is allocated towards agriculture in-spite of the Maputo declaration pledge. “This is way too little for us to be able to produce enough food that would end the hunger,” she said.
She went on to say as women they are prepared to make a change and contribute positively towards food security in the area but without adequate support they cannot achieve anything.  Another small scale farmer from Lesotho Mamalefatsane Phakoe is also concerned that they are excluded from policy formulation which makes it difficult for them to add value and make them relevant. The women argue that this is the reason why the policies are ineffective as they are not addressing their real problems.
Phakoe reiterated Maswanganyi’s sentiments saying it is surprising that her country Lesotho is only allocation 4.7% towards agriculture as opposed to the 10% pledged. She also feels the amount is too little to make a desired difference in food security. Another issue that is of what the allocated money is used for as women and small scale farmers continue to complaining of lack of support.
This has been rubber stumped by Professor Nicolas Ngepah of OXFAM who said contrary to the fact that women grow 80% of the food in Southern Africa; little attention is given to them in the formation of agriculture policies and investment plans and process. Ngepah pointed out that studies have indicated that small holder farmers most of which are women dominate agricultural activities even though they are the most vulnerable to the wide spread poverty, food insecurity and hunger.
“For this reason we call on SADC heads of states to increase investments towards small scale women producers,” said Ngepah.  He went on to say there should be specific budgets allocations directed towards the needs of women and small holder farmers based on consultations during policy and budget processes. 
OXFAM and the Economic Justice Network are looking at the upcoming 35th Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and government for SADC to urge the leaders to unanimously commit and agree to implement architecture of agricultural financing and investment policies. They believe that this will give an advantage to women and smallholder farmers to enable the realisation of poverty eradication. 

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