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GMT drives network for women in agribusiness

The Graça Machel Trust has taken a big step towards the establishment of its planned network of African women in agribusiness – the organisation recently held its first meeting in this regard, with 30 women from 12 countries in attendance.

Besides the attendees from, among others, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, there was also representation from New Faces New Voices, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), the Nepad Gender Programme and the Nepad Business Foundation.

The aim of the meeting was to deliberate the formation of a network of African women in agribusiness. The idea was well-received and all agreed that such a network would serve the interests of African women. The group also developed a draft statement of the network’s proposed vision – it is: An efficient and effective network in agribusiness, unlocking and unpacking opportunities for the economic independence of women in Africa.

With this vision in mind, the network will initially focus on three broad categories:

  • policy – influence and implementation;
  • capacity building; and
    • access to productive resources such as land, finance, inputs, etc.

The delegates decided that the way forward will involve the formation of steering committees in their countries to drive the establishment of the network. The Trust, meanwhile, will undertake a mapping exercise of existing agribusiness associations.

Attendees also stressed the importance of communication and sharing of information amongst network members.

With the information collected at the meeting, the partners in this ground-breaking project will be able to draw up a full proposal and strategy that can be used for fundraising for the network, and also to guide its establishment within GMT and at country level.

Agricultural activities high among women

Dr Lindiwe Sibanda from FANRPAN spoke about the importance of women occupying the entire value chain of agriculture from harvesting and transportation, to processing, packaging and marketing the products to consumers.

Women on average comprise 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries – but their participation in policy- and decision-making is minimal. Also, in many societies their access to land is limited because of laws and traditions which prohibit women’s inheritance or ownership of land.

Of those women in least developed countries who are reported to be economically active, 79% report agriculture as their main source of livelihoods.

GMT programme manager Tebello Ralebetso said the Trust aimed to work with the network to develop a “strong foundation for the network that will one day translate into real benefits for women in agriculture”.