Align for inclusive development

By Stephanie Brittain

The African Union (AU) will meet on the 30th -31st of January for the 24th Ordinary Session, a high level event that officially closes the 2014 “AU Year of Agriculture and Food Security” and launches the 2015 “AU Year of Women’s Empowerment and Africa Development for the concretisation of Agenda 2063″. Also launched under this new 2015 theme is the AU strategy and roadmap for facilitating the transition of 2025 Vision on CAADP. The strategy came about when, at the end of the 2014 AU meeting in Malabo, Heads of State and Government adopted an ambitious set of goals to be achieved by 2025 in their ‘Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods’. The Malabo Declaration asks the AU Commission and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to develop an implementation strategy to turn the 2025 vision and goals into reality. The fact that the AU Malabo strategy is being launched during the AU Year of Women’s Empowerment is important, providing an opportunity for the goals of gender equality and agricultural growth to align. The roadmap calls for ‘inclusive’ development and without gender equality, development in Africa will be significantly slowed, and it will certainly not be inclusive.

Women’s rights are recognised in international agreements…

Photo credit: Eric Lafforgue, 2010

Photo credit: Eric Lafforgue, 2010

Women all over the world should be able to enjoy the same life prospects as men, as a basic human right. Not only is equality a human right, is the smart thing to do for development; if all members of society are equal and able to contribute, then their outputs will be far greater than if only half of the society are able to contribute. The need for gender equality for development is well recognized, cited in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Millennium Development Goal’s and now the Sustainable Development Goal’s further support the vital role that gender equality will continue to play in the inclusive and sustainable development of all countries.

But what about in agriculture?…

Photo Credit: UNHCR/F. NOY,2012

Photo Credit: UNHCR/F. NOY, 2012

Yet, despite this recognition and progress in some areas, there is still a large gender gap that needs to be narrowed, and in agriculture this gap looks more like a chasm. The FAO reported that the share of female smallholders who can access credit is 5–10 percentage points lower than for male smallholders. Only 5 percent of all extension resources are directed at women and only 15 percent of the extension personnel are female. Only 10-20 percent of all landowners in developing countries are women (where data is available). Further, women earn less than men from their livestock holdings and are less likely to own large animals, such as cattle and oxen that are useful as draught animals. The 2015 Gates Letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, highlights that even in areas where women do have equal access to resources, the agricultural extension services tend to be geared toward male farmers, focusing on the crops that men produce for example, which may explain in part why women farmers are kept from being as productive as men. Ensuring that women farmers have equal access to agricultural resources and extension services boosts women’s incomes and has a positive impact on a country’s agricultural sector and food security. If women had the same access to resources and inputs as men, they could increase yields on their farms by twenty to thirty per cent. That could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by two to four per cent per annum, and reduce the number of food insecure people in the world by twelve to seventeen per cent. 2015: The super year for development, alignment and gender equality

Photo C. Schubert (CCAFS)

Photo C. Schubert (CCAFS)

To increase food security in Africa, there needs to be a strong focus on gender equality with clear goals and targets in the AU’s strategy for an agriculture-led and inclusive economic growth, closely aligned with activities related to the AU year of Women’s Empowerment. This is a fantastic opportunity for the greater alignment of economic and gender goals to further drive inclusive and sustainable development and growth in African agriculture. Add to this the post-2015 and the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+20), these coinciding events during 2015 provide us with an enormous opportunity to accelerate inclusive and sustainable development – using progress in gender equality as a catalyst for ‘inclusive’ agricultural-led development. There is more momentum this year than ever to initiative real change, providing a unique opportunity for the acceleration and realization of the commitments made to women’s rights, gender equality, women’s empowerment and inclusive agricultural and rural development. The Malabo strategy and the outcomes of the AU Year of Women must be aligned, requiring joint action with multiple actors, from African leaders, farmers, civil society, agri-businesses, and other African stakeholders. Food security and development in Africa cannot afford for these efforts to keep moving through separate tracks.


  1. Reblogged this on kasozimulindwa and commented:
    Agriculture, most likely to bring about development in the near term…


  1. […] long-term investment decisions. This is particularly true for women farmers, who only account for 10-20% of all landowners in developing countries.  Countries that manage to clarify and strengthen land tenure are most likely to succeed in […]

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