Thursday, May 23, 2024

The female farmer’s role in the food basket

Female farmers suffer the most during drought periods because uneven access to water complicates their ability to participate in commercial farming, hence the problem to deliver food at household level.

Tasks that require a greater degree of heavy manual labour such as clearing forests and woodlands, digging, fencing  are performed by men while physically less demanding tasks such as planting, weeding, harvesting  tend to be performed by women. 

A paper compiled by Professor Maitseo Bolaane and Gwen Lesetedi from the University of Botswana recommends among others that there is a need to increase the capacities and abilities of women to develop food security aimed at increasing production as they play an important role in food production.

The paper, titled, “Gendered Livelihood, Indigenous Knowledge and Food Security in Botswana: Morogo and Dinawa” was presented during the 17th African Association for Biological Nitrogen Fixation (AABNF) at GICC. 

The paper highlighted that women picked the morogo and dinawa samples because they both come from one plant (the bean) which grows under extreme weather conditions. 

Bolaane highlighted that: “Nearly all societies organise their lives and activities on the basis of a division of labour between females and males. This socially based and socially determined division of labour regulates the relationships between men and women. Gender relationships and division of labour are therefore socially construed and constructed, through the process of socialisation.” 

She said that this process differs from one society to another, and it was reinforced by other factors such as culture, religion and individual inclinations. 

On food security in Botswana, Bolaane explained that the rise of the mining sector in Botswana had been accompanied by the simultaneous decline of the agricultural sector over the years. The decline in the importance of agriculture has vital implications in the attainment of food security in the country. The situation has been compounded by persistent drought and low soil productivity among others. 

She said the Southern African Development Corporation (SADC) region was faced with food insecurity as production declined while populations increased. Many countries in the region were characterised by slow economic growth, declining performance of the agricultural sector, high levels of poverty, corruption and HIV/AIDS. 40 million people are in dire need of food. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warns that the region is at risk of food shortages.

Bolaane observed that gender based factors and inequalities that impact on food production and security include land acquisition, owning boreholes, loan acquisition which limited women’s food production capacity and put household food security at risk.  

She said the findings of their research were that preparation of the fields was done by men and women while the former ploughed mostly because of control of implements such as tractors. Weeding and harvesting was done by women

The researchers recommended that women should be included in the formulation and design of policies aimed at food security as their success is dependent on the role that both women and men play in society.


Read this week's paper