The Graça Machel Trust is building a pan-African network of women in agriculture with the aim of enabling women to collectively influence policies in the agricultural sector and firmly occupy the driving seat of food production in Africa.
While women in Africa are the bedrock of food production in their countries, they remain marginalised in the development of agricultural policies or creation of agribusiness. Issues of access and control over land and productive resources, as well as poverty, illiteracy, and other socially unjust laws are among the factors that have prevented women from making progress in this sector.
Policy interventions that ensure support for women in business and an environment in which such business will thrive are necessary. This involves creating and strengthening relationships between producers, processors and traders, ensuring at every point, the inclusion and meaningful involvement and participation of women.
To develop strategies that will shift women from occupying the lower end of the agriculture value chain, to becoming policy decision makers and owners of business, the Trust has partnered with women leaders, associations, corporations, and organisations from across the continent. The first meeting of the partners will take place in Johannesburg this month. About 30 women are expected to attend the meeting, and will come from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The Trust’s programme officer, Tebello Ralebitso said: "Without the mobilisation and the coordination of a women’s network, we will not be able to achieve the necessary transformation of the agricultural sector. It is up to women to drive the change they wish to see in this sector and this network offers such an opportunity."
The network aims to build a common vision for women in agribusiness in Africa; increase the participation of women in policy and decision-making in the agricultural sector; and engage financial institutions and regional trade bodies to facilitate access to finance, credit and markets for women in the sector.
The Network of African Women in Agribusiness is part of the Mrs Graça Machel’s vision which is to multiply faces, and amplify women's voices in sectors that have a significant impact on the economic development of the African continent. The first established network under this vision is the New Faces New Voices, launched in 2010 to network women in finance. The NFNV has a wide reach in 15 countries across Africa.