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Theatre to empower women farmers in southern Africa

Jul 06, 2009

Women constitute about 70% of the total workforce engaged in agricultural activities in the entire Sub-Saharan Africa. A new project will use community theatre to spread awareness about the needs of women agriculturists to help them increase their production and earnings.

Pretoria: Community theatre will be the main thrust of an innovative pilot project that aims to give women farmers stronger influence in agricultural policy-making in Southern Africa.

The Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Network (FANRPAN) is set to launch the Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project in July, after a funding agreement was signed with the Gates Global Development Foundation in June.

"Traditionally song and dance are integral parts of African culture and act as a powerful communication medium whilst also stimulating dialogue so this is what we are going to use," says FANRPAN Natural Resources and Environment Programme Manager, Thembi Ndema.

WARM’s main objective is to provide a platform for rural women farmers to express their specific needs and to raise issues that help realign policy research agendas to meet them.

"Traditional song and dance are integral parts of African culture and act as a powerful communication medium whilst also stimulating dialogue"

"Women are already engaged in farming and are seeking ways in which to increase their production and earnings."

Ndema explains that women farmers are often marginalised in business relations and have little control over access to land, seed and fertiliser as well as credit and technology.

Currently, women make up 70% of the total agricultural workforce in Sub-Saharan Africa. They are responsible for 100% of the processing of basic foodstuffs, according to the latest Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) statistics. Ndema says that community theatre will help bridge the gap between researchers' knowledge and the communities involved in the project.

"We need to get to the local level and increase these farmers' understanding of input markets whilst also educating researchers once we gain insight from the communities," says Ndema.

"Policy-makers lack the right information needed to inform policy development and more analytical statistics which can be used to fine tune programmes and policies to reach the most vulnerable and needy segments of the population."

The project’s planned interventions include providing the participants with access to credit and research services, technology and input and output markets whilst also boosting their participation in policy-making processes at community and national level through active involvement in agricultural organisations.

FANRPAN will get to grassroots level by encouraging community mobilisation of women farmers in order to communicate key agricultural messages linked to productivity, development plans and accessing of services.

"We will identify community champions who will help spread the message," says Ndema.

FANRPAN CEO Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda says WARM will be extended if it succeeds. It is set to run for three years in Malawi and Mozambique with universities, national agricultural and research organisations and organisations like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Oxfam, World Vision, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Graça Machel Development Foundation all on board.

Source : IPS
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