A High Level Breakfast Meeting was organized on January 27, 2018, by Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) on the theme Empowering Women in Agriculture (EWA) at the margins of the 30th African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa. Chaired by Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, the event was attended by representatives of heads of states, rural women in agri-business, partners and other stakeholders.
In his opening statements, Dr Obasanjo called for the review of the activities and processes of EWA in the six years since it was launched, as well as the challenges facing rural women in agriculture These include the lack of access to resources like land, credit, limited market space and low productivity. Obasanjo called for commitment and support from various partners and stakeholders. He drew the loudest applause of the meeting when he said: “Why are we not talking about discrimination in favor of women … discrimination in favor of women is positive discrimination.”
He also said that EWA must be seen as a way of achieving the UN SDG 2.
The EWA initiative currently involves 9 pilot countries, Malawi, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Liberia and Nigeria. Dr Obasanjo said he would like to see the number of participating countries increased to 15 in the next 2 years.
Madam Bineta Diop, who moderated the event, thanked UNWomen for their contribution and push. Ms. Giovanne Biha, who represented Dr. Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of ECA, committed ECA’s continuous support to EWA, especially in the area of data collection.
In his address to the group, Dr Akinwunmi Ayodeji Adesina, the president of African Development Bank (AfDB) confirmed the formation of the Affirmative Finance Action for women in Africa (AFWA), which will be a systematic shift in how women, especially women in agriculture, are supported by local commercial banks. He said AfDB would make a $3billion line of credit available towards the AFWA initiative.
Out of this, $300 million would be available towards the EWA initiative through local banks. Commercial and local banks will be rated based on the percentage and volume of money made available to women in agriculture.
Dr Adesina informed the attendees of a $250 Million AfDB program in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank and AGRA, called Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT), in support of the Feed Africa Strategy. He believes this program will empower rural women as technology is scaled up in all the EWA states. While thanking ECA and African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for their continuous support, he promised solid support for EWA programs.
Officials of institutions who pledged support to the EWA initiative at the event include Professor Emmanuel Nnadozie, the executive secretary of ACBF (represented), The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Madam Leonel Correa Josefa Sacko, GIMAC, UN Women, the CEO of NEPAD Agency, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, OCP, IFAD, and ambassadors from Rwanda and Burkina Faso.
The Director-General of FAO, Dr Jose Graziano da Silva said FAO is deeply involved with EWA and cautioned that while “working hard to achieve zero hunger, we are also eating less and less healthy with fruits and vegetables missing from our diets”. He hoped the EWA initiatives would help to prevent obesity in Africa.
The rural women, represented by Madam Zainab Isah Arah from northern Nigeria and rural women farmers from Burkina Faso, enjoined all to match their words with action. Zainab said “If women in agriculture are empowered, we will play our role in ending hunger”. Obasanjo thanked Zainab for “allowing herself to be heard coming from an area where women are only supposed to be seen, not heard”.
Amadou Mahtar Ba, the Executive Chairman of AllAfrica and member of United Nations Secretary General high level panel on women affairs, said despite the progress that has been made, “the penny still hasn’t dropped”. He said despite knowing all the problems and knowing almost all the solutions, we are yet to crack the nut on the political determination to solve these problems. He suggested forming a coalition of reporters across Africa who writes on agriculture and women affairs to make sure that people know what rural women in agriculture are doing – an idea that Dr. Obasanjo agreed to quickly.