By Beatrice Ouma
Over 130 representatives from government, the private sector, civil society, producer organisations, development partners, donors and academics are attending the Agricultural Investment, Gender and Land in Africa conference being held in Cape Town, South Africa.
The objectives of the conference are threefold: One, it aims to build a common understanding of why gender is important in dealing with agricultural investment and learn about options, promising approaches and good practices as well as challenges; secondly, to create a space in which all participants from different countries and sectors can share views, ideas and experiences as a step towards creating a more distinct knowledge platform and partnerships, and lastly, to come up with concrete recommendations for moving the conversations around agricultural investments forward.
Day one of the conference kicked off with a lively discussion with an expert panel leading the discussions on the implications of land investments on rural livelihoods, gender relations and social differentiation. Honourable Ambassador Gertrude Mongella, the first President of the Pan African Parliament gave the keynote address calling for a review of the management system of land needs in Africa to avert the risk of marginalising both men and women. She pointed out that land distribution must deal with equality between groups and users. “We need to ensure that the women are the centre of the agricultural revolution in Africa because they are the willing partners and deal with the question of discrimination in ownership of land,” she said.
Tobias Takavarasha, head of FAO office in South Africa stressed the need for increased investment in agriculture, and for these investment to help expand opportunities for the most marginalised. Only through inclusive growth, which requires accountability, transparency and efficiency through partnerships among different stakeholders at all levels will hunger and poverty reduction will be achieved.
Andries du Toit, the Director of the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) implored the conference participants to engage actively in the complex issues relating to the gendered impact of agricultural investments. “Agro-food investment in Africa is about change and politics – about people and power, and over the next days we will engage with issues around identity, class, colour and race, and especially gender. The decisions that need to be made and implemented belong with the people of Africa, “he said.
And on behalf of the Dr. Abebe Haile Gabriel , Director, Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (DREA) African Union Commission (AUC), Sue Mbaya (Land Policy Initiative) said that even though the central role of women in agriculture in Africa is well established, the quest to improve women’s land rights still faces many challenges including discriminatory land tenure systems, policy gaps, lack of rigorous and effective implementation of what progressive provisions have been adopted, and a lack of awareness by most women of their rights. There is a need therefore for identification of good practices, promising strategies and appropriate policy measures to foster successful large scale land investments that are cognisant of – and benefit – women.
The discussions around agricultural investments and their implications on gender relations will continue over the next two days.
Follow the conference via Twitter using the hashtag #AIGLIA2014
See some photos from day 1 of the conference