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African Woman Enhancing Agro-fores​try

Most men  are shifting away from farms to search alternative income, making women more responsible for rural incomes

Even as this happens, research indicate that Women in Africa, are not profiting as much as they could from agroforestry

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African Woman Enhancing Agro-fores​try

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Writer - Antony Aisi

Research has found that women in Africa are more likely to participate in agroforestry that is considered to be their domain and usually of little commercial value such as the collection and processing of indigenous fruits and vegetables, and less likely to be involved when it is related to areas considered male domain.
 
“Most men  are shifting away from farms to search alternative income, making women more responsible for rural incomes, in Malawi 30% account for female-headed households of all rural smallholder households , and half of households in Western Kenya and more than half in Zimbabwe,” said Evelyne Kiptot, co-author of the study and Senior Research Scientist at the Kenya Forestry Research Institute.”
 
African Women are still disadvantaged despite their important role in agricultural production, due to cultural, sociological and economic factors and they also tend to have limited access to resources and household decision making, they are also confined to the lower end especially when it comes to marketing of agroforestry products such as indigenous fruits, which limits their control over, and returns from the productive process.
 
In western Kenya it has been found that women have rights to certain trees and they are also limted to by-products of men’s trees. Butthere are some species which women have rights, and/or access to. Among the Luo and Luyha of western Kenya, Sesbania sesban, which is good for fuel wood and soil fertility improvement, is considered a woman’s tree and they have the authority to plant, manage, use and dispose of it as they please. Ibo women of southeastern Nigeria own economic trees such as palm oil as reward for their ability to bear children. In West Africa, certain fruit trees are planted and processed by women, including bush mango, bread fruit and the oil bean tree.
 
“Reducing the gender gap in agriculture and rural employment will not only benefit women but also increase agricultural productivity and stability. Armed with the same resources as their male counterparts, women farmers could increase their yields by 20 to 30 percent. This increase in production has the potential of increasing women’s income  as well as reducing the number of hungry  people worldwide by 12 to 17 percent.” UN’s food and agriculture organization (FAO) reported
 
 
In Kenya, specifically targeted women farmers are empowered  with a program to grow fodder shrubs that increase milk yields of dairy cows and goats which help them raise the proportion of women beneficiaries to about half, these women are earning greater incomes and using this money to pay school fees and improve the nutrition of their families.
 
One of the main recommendations is for women to have greater access to information and training, the targeting of women’s groups and facilitation of women to form and strengthen associations, extension services are currently mainly aimed at men, so deliberate gender-sensitive interventions are needed.
 
Similarly, for women to benefit from markets, deliberate effort must be made by governments and NGOs to specifically link women with markets and industry. By engaging in collective action women can also gain a more powerful position in the value chain.
 
For women to compete favourably and also have an edge, they must diversify into high value new products such as oil, soap, juices, body lotions, wine, and leaf meal. This can often be done using the same raw materials.
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    By Antony Aisi

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