Levelling the field: Improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa

Levelling the field: Improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa

African agriculture has the potential to spur growth, reduce poverty and transform millions of lives. Yet a wide and pervasive gender gap in agricultural productivity has hindered the sector’s development and broader growth. Women farmers face numerous economic, cultural and institutional disadvantages, and consequently produce less per hectare than their male counterparts.

Investing in women farmers and instituting policies that close the gender gap in African agriculture could yield enormous benefits, not only for women themselves, but also for their families, their communities and their entire countries. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that if women worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30%, lifting between 100 and 150 million people out of hunger. Furthermore, when a woman gains more control over her income, she gains more say over important decisions that affect her family, especially her children. Families where women influence economic decisions allocate more income to food, health, education and children’s nutrition, thus benefiting Africa’s next generation.

Grain about to be harvested

Grain about to be harvested around Kolu, Ethiopia. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/IWMI

While many African policy-makers, donor governments and development partners have turned their attention to the gender gap in African agriculture, their efforts could be enhanced by a better understanding of which factors matter, how they matter in different contexts, and what policies can be effectively employed to bridge that gap. For too long, policy-makers have lacked high-quality, consistent data on agriculture, let alone sex-disaggregated data for the sector.

This report, “Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa”, strives to change this.  It marshals fresh, new evidence measuring the gender gap in African agriculture and provides detailed analysis of the factors that account for this gap in six African countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

Based on these new findings, the report lays out a ten-point policy agenda that African policy-makers, donors, and development organisations could undertake to narrow the gender gap.

The African Union has declared 2014 to be the “Year of Agriculture and Food Security,” bringing much-needed attention to the sector’s potential to transform the continent. This is an opportunity not only to transform the agriculture sector, but to rally African governments and development organisations to commit to concrete policy action to redress the inequalities within the sector, and in so doing to reap greater rewards from future investments.

Download the Report (PDF format)

Download the Executive Summary (PDF format)