According to the United Nation’s secretary-general Amina Mohammed, women spend a total of 200 million hours collecting water and millions more tending to the soil, but they still lack land rights and financial resources.
The main theme of this year’s COP15 conference deals with desertification and land degradation, as it impacts the well-being of approximately 3.2 billion people. Desertification, land degradation, and drought are all caused by unsustainable land use, agricultural, and soil management methods.
“We are responsible for the bulk of this, considering that human activities directly influence 70% of the world’s land,” said UN general assembly president Abdulla Shahid.
Drought, land restoration, and associated enablers such as land rights, gender equality, and youth empowerment were among the top priorities on the conference’s agenda, which comes at a critical juncture in Africa’s response to climate change.
One of the big topics of discussion at this year’s COP15 surrounded access to land. According to The Borgen Project, a total of 65% of the continent’s farmers do so mainly for subsistence purposes, while women make up the majority of the agricultural labour force, at a whopping 80%.
Below are a number of non-governmental organisations and companies that assist farmers in gaining access to land across the continent:
The Maragra Project
The Maragra initiative educates over 1 600 farmers in Mozambique’s their rights under the country’s land laws, documents smallholder farmers’ rights through a community land mapping process, and establishes a comprehensive grievance system for farmers and the local community.
The programme was started by AB Sugar, the international parent company of Africa’s Illovo Sugar, and is centred around the Maragra plantation in Mozambique.
Here, Illovo works with other companies and NGOs such as TerraFirma, a land consultant, and the NGOs Indufor and The Cloudburst Foundation, both supported by USAID.
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
“Closing the gender gap in agriculture will require action on three fronts. The first is land rights. In most of Africa south of the Sahara, women rarely own land. Instead, women farmers usually access land through a male relative, most commonly a husband, brother, or father. This arrangement leaves them highly vulnerable; a death, divorce, or simply a man’s change of mind can leave a woman farmer landless overnight,” said Ruth Meizen-Dick, one of IFPRI’s senior research fellows.
In addition, women do not have equitable access to inputs such as fertiliser, better seeds, mechanical equipment, or agricultural extension programmes that would provide them with information on better agricultural techniques. This disparity is exacerbated by farmers’ lack of access to the credit they require to purchase inputs. Women are less likely to benefit from financial services in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, according to studies.
A such, Meizen-Dick and her team worked to form the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), which is a comprehensive guide that considers the levels at which men and women are empowered within their agricultural communities, and their access to land.
One Acre Fund
This NGO works to put farmers first.
“One Acre Fund supplies farmers with everything they need to grow more food and earn more money. Most farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa live in just eight countries — Nigeria, Ethiopia, and the six countries of the Lake Victoria basin — and we operate in all of them,” the organisation says. “With more productive farms, farmers can feed their families and sell any surplus. They can plant valuable crops, like trees, and build assets over time. With more income, farmers can invest in their children’s education and build businesses in their communities.”
Their entire business is based on one simple concept: when a farmer increases his or her yield, he or she lifts themselves and their community out of poverty. To that aim, the group provides a full “market-in-a-box” that provides farmers with critical agricultural supplies (seed and fertiliser), instructs them on how to use them, and connects them with markets where they may sell their harvest. Their simple concept has already touched over 60,000 farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi.