The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has noted that as COVID-19 continues to spread in Africa, women in agriculture are struggling to cope not only with the restrictions to limit the spread of the disease but also with endemic inequalities, which undermine their capacity to respond and recover from the impact of this pandemic.
The pandemic is exacerbating already existing structural inequalities, increasing the burden on women as they struggle to fulfill their multiple roles of managing their families, farms, and small businesses, AGRA said, stating further that the gendered access to opportunities means that women and men have different resources available to them to prepare for, cope with, and recover from such a crisis.
Women constitute nearly 50% of agricultural workforce and own one third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, they are a key pillar of Africa’s food systems.
As the restrictions related to COVID-19 come into force in various countries, women’s livelihoods and business activities are threatened, so is household food and nutrition, and family well-being, a key priority addressed by women’s incomes.
Their inability to freely access resources required to conduct primary production activities, find flexible financing to keep their SMEs afloat or earn wage income in rural markets will hinder food security and wellbeing of rural families.
AGRA, in consultation with continental partners or women agripreneur networks, calls on Governments in Africa, the development community, and the private sector, to urgently deploy resources to assist women access resources necessary to conduct agricultural activities, cushion their small businesses to avoid collapse and amplify their voices throughout this pandemic, to attract targeted support for recovery.
With low saving capabilities, women small holders lack capital reserves to stockpile agricultural inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Abrupt closures of input shops, lack of farm labor and machinery, fear and stigma associated with infections have led to farms being abandoned and farming operations disruptions.
These primary agricultural production activities form the core of women’s incomes, the loss of which is detrimental not only to food and nutrition, but healthcare, education and a chain of rural economies fueled by this income. It is therefore crucial to assist women access inputs, farm labor, mechanization and advisory services to help them weather the immediate effects of this crisis.
Agricultural markets are the lifeline of rural communities. For women, proximity to local markets provide flexibility to combine home care with income generating activities.
Disruptions of local activities is akin to stifling women’s incomes. It is crucial to keep local markets open, sanitize market infrastructure, provide protective attire for market operators, and improve information flow to increase awareness.
Transportation and logistics of agricultural products should be considered essential services. They provide offtake of agricultural commodities and nourish local economies.