Take Five: Women farmers are key for a sustainable agricultural community
Anthony P. Chamanga is a professional Trade Economist and is the Chief Development Manager for the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), where he directs the agricultural development programme, with a large focus on supporting women youth smallholder farmers.
UN Women partnered with TAHA on the ongoing joint programme with UNFPA on “Realizing Gender Equality through Empowering Women and Adolescent Girls Programme(RGEWER)”, funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The partnership with TAHA aims to strengthen women and young women smallholder farmers’ capacity to apply good agricultural and climate resilient practices in sunflower and horticulture production.
Why is Climate -Smart Agriculture (CSA) important?
Climate change has huge ramifications on agricultural profitability. Available water has been reduced due to rising temperatures and lack of rain. In Zanzibar, for instance, there are locations where water supply is available all year long but today, it is challenging to find water during dry spells. Similarly, changing weather patterns have resulted in increased occurrence of new diseases and pests which affects the growth of healthy crops. We have also seen an increased resistance to pesticides, which means that farmers need to use more pesticides, which leads to several health consequences for farmers and negatively impacts the quality of their produce and profitability.
What are some of the specific ways you have seen climate change affect women in the agriculture sector?
Women form the majority of the agricultural workforce in Tanzania, which means that anything that affects the sector has a greater impact on women. In recent years, we have seen climate change significantly affecting women’s livelihoods, particularly due to shrinking water supplies and the limited access to, or knowledge on irrigation technologies. Even in areas where irrigation systems are available, in some areas such as Arusha, water rationing is mainly controlled by male leaders, which disproportionally limits access for women.
How is TAHA addressing these challenges in the context of gender equality under the RGEWER programme?
Through the programme we are implementing with UN Women, we are applying gender-responsive climate smart approaches. We have made trained 300 targeted beneficiaries and 207 additional adopters on climate-smart agriculture. Now, they have been better able to understand climate change and its potential effects on the environment and economy.
We have introduced women to climate-smart agricultural techniques such as micro-irrigation, which provides water to targeted plants without depleting the water source. For the communities that solely relied on rainfall and had no irrigation system prior to that, this is life changing. We also trained them on the use of environmentally friendly, safe plant protection substances as an alternative to using harmful levels of pesticides.
We also supported women farmers to both establish and grow businesses, connecting them to markets so that they can earn money to reinvest in climate-smart technology. Where women started to improve their income, we saw it also translate into an overall increase in the family income, as their husbands began adopting what the women had learned, which in turn, results in better livelihoods for their communities as a whole.
What are some of the key policy suggestions you would make to strengthen the resilience of women farmers against climate risks?
In order for farmers to be able to afford climate-smart technologies, they need adequate access to finance. Government policies have improved in this area, but a lot remains to be done to ensure that women farmers, especially those who aren’t in a position to use land as collateral can access loans. One of the main components of the programme we are implementing with UN Women is the promotion of land ownership for women farmers, but there needs to be comprehensive action to eliminate other barriers to financial services, such as lowering interest rates, allowing movable collateral and designing longer repayment terms. At the same time, it is important to facilitate the availability of climate-smart technology at a reasonable price, by creating demand and funding domestic manufacturers.
There is also a need to increase policy interventions on environmental protection, with stricter enforcement of regulations like the 60-meter law, which prohibits economic activity within 60 meters of a water source.
What is the ideal agricultural community you dream of if the programme were to have a long-term impact?
The ideal agricultural community would be one where all components of the value-chain, from harvest to storage, processing, packaging, transport and distribution are well connected. It is important to support women smallholder farmers to grow into medium and large-scale players through knowledge transfer and increasing market access. One of the big mistakes is leaving the smallholder farmers alone. If these suppliers get connected to the domestic market, Eastern and Southern African market, and global market, the rural economy will automatically thrive, with spill-over effects to other areas of the economy. This all starts with the smallholder farmer who adds value to the product, and women play a significant role here.