Mum’s rather mum in agroforestry

Rose Koech, at her farm in Kenya. She grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass for dairy cattle. ICRAF/Sherry Odeyo

Rose Koech, at her farm in Kenya. She grows fodder trees, shrubs and grass for dairy cattle. ICRAF/Sherry Odeyo

Several studies have confirmed that women smallholder farmers produce most of the food eaten particularly in African and Asian Countries. But according to Tony Simons, the Director General for the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), gender balance is yet to be fully realized in the field of agroforestry.

“In about 200 abstracts being presented at the ongoing World Congress on Agroforestry, only six papers mention gender, and that is a challenge to all of us,” Simons told the Congress while opening a plenary session to discuss the business of agroforestry in relation to science.

The UN Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) estimates that women produce between 60 and 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries, and are responsible for half of the world’s food production. In Asia, FAO estimates that they provide between 50 and 90 percent of labor for rice cultivation, an industry that supplies many African countries.

Simons said there is need to consider gender equity in all aspects of agroforestry ranging from policy, decision making, research, to markets.

Some of the studies presented at the World Congress on Agroforestry reveal that women are still oppressed, especially in the developing world.

One of the studies done in India by Purabi Bose of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and co-researchers shows that despite the fact that women spent most of their time working on the farms, most of the land in the study area was still owned or claimed by men.

This is worsened by the fact that after the work is done by women, men turn around to make decisions during harvesting and marketing of the farm produce.

In another study from Indonesia presented at the Congress by Ratna Akiefnawati of the World Agroforestry Centre, labor in the study area is generally based on family members, but there is a clear division of farm duties between women and men – which has been the trend since time immemorial. “Women are responsible for the rice fields, their backyard and house work while men are responsible for rubber production and marketing,” said Akiefnawati.

Scientists have pointed out that Africa, in particular, will not achieve a green revolution unless she seriously incorporates farm input use with agroforestry. Hence, women are key to implementing the scientific findings, especially on small holdings.

In another study by scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre, Evelyne Kiptot and Steven Franze found out that the lower involvement of women in agroforestry reflects their lack of resources, particularly land and labour, coupled with their already heavy workload.

By Isaiah Esipisu

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Vigyan Bhavan & Kempinski Ambience

10 - 14 February 2014 Delhi, India
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