UN, AU, Others Task ECOWAS on Gender Equality in Agric Investment

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Alex Enumah in Abuja
The United Nations, African Union, Oxfam West Africa and other developmental bodies yesterday 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 unanimously agree 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.

They stated this at a two-day conference to ‘Promote Gender Equality in Agricultural Land Investments in Africa’ organised by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and Oxfam in collaboration with the ECOWAS Parliament.

According to the Representative of the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations, 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, finance and rural services. Their land rights continue to be neglected,” she said.

Similarly, Head, Rural Economy Division of the AU, Dr. Janet Eseme, while acknowledging that land play a crucial role in poverty alleviation in Africa owing to the fact that most Africans rely on agriculture for their survival, lamented the huddles women face in acquiring land for large scale agricultural productions.

She disclosed that the AU Commission, in attempt to address the situation, established guiding principles on governance of land investments to guarantee and protect the interest of women.

On her part, Agriculture and Investment Adviser, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Carin Smaller, stated that if Africa truly wants to end poverty and issues relating to climate change, women must be the engine of agricultural development.

She lamented that yield of women farmers are about 20 percent lower than their male counterpart, adding that closing the gap in agriculture could bring about 150million people out of poverty.

In his keynote address, Regional Director, Oxfam International, Adama Coulibaly, revealed that the recent increase in the acquisition of large parcels of land for agricultural investments in Africa has posed a new challenge. He said communities, families are been alienated from their lands without adequate compensation while small-holder farmers who are mainly women are highly marginalised.

“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’ land owners by virtue of documents of ownership,” he said.

Coulibaly said Oxfam as an organisation has been focused in tackling the unequal access to rural women to resources, especially to land.

He urged legislators at the conference to ensure laws and policies that would ensure that investments in their countries are inclusive and of benefit to all.