ECOWAS, Oxfam, others urge gender equity in Agric investment in Africa

The United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Oxfam and other developmental organisations have urged governments in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to enact laws and policies that would enhance women participation in agricultural development.

They were speaking at a two-day conference on “Promoting Gender Equality in Agricultural Land Investments in Africa”, organised by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Oxfam, ECOWAS Parliament and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

They unanimously agreed that laws and policies that are targeted at empowering women, particularly in the ownership of land, which is a major factor in agriculture, would go a long way in fast-tracking development in Africa.

According to the representative of the Food and Agriculture of the UN Tacko Ndiaye, despite the widespread recognition of women’s contributions to food security and nutrition in their household and communities, they have continued to be discriminated against.

“Compared to their male counterparts, they have less secure access to productive resources, employment opportunities, markets, and rural services. Their land rights continue to be neglected,” she said.

Delivering a keynote address, Oxfam International Regional Director, Adama Coulibaly, said that the recent increase in the acquisition of large parcels of land for agricultural investments in Africa has posed a new challenge.

According to him communities, families are being alienated from their lands without adequate compensation while small-holder farmers who are mainly women are highly marginalized.

He said, “In most of our countries, women’s tenure right tends to be more insecure, with fewer parcels of land documented in their names. Due to lack of legal ownership, women in most communities have been disadvantaged where private companies acquire and compensate ‘legal’ landowners by virtue of documents of ownership.”

On his part the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Moustapha Cesse Lo, said that the Parliament was synergizing with development partners as part of the effort to enhance women’s participation in agricultural investment in Africa and that targeting female producers in agriculture would help to boost agricultural practice in the community, hence, the need to address under-development of women in agriculture.

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