Dorcas Jiri Herald Reporter
Women are more likely to endure the negative effects of climate change as they constitute the majority of the small holder farmers who rely on rain-fed agriculture, Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Cde Oppah Muchinguri has said.In a speech read on her behalf at the launch of the 2014 Expo on Sustainable Livelihoods in Harare on Saturday, Cde Muchinguri said climate change had undesirable effects, especially on women smallholder farmers as they were responsible for producing the bulk of small scale food output.
“Yields from rain-fed agriculture are projected to shrink by up to 50 percent by 2020. This is particularly important given that women smallholder farmers in the region are over reliant on rain-fed agriculture. Because of this they are likely to feel the negative impacts of climate change more,” she said.
“Women are particularly crucial in Southern Africa, where they are responsible for the majority of small scale food production but remain persistently disadvantaged in the region.”
She said despite the crucial role played by women in food production through contributing 70 percent of agricultural labour they struggled to access water, profitable markets and land.
Minister Muchinguri said that only one percent of women in Africa controlled land while policies for foreign direct investment and regional and national water policies were not helping the situation.
“Policies for foreign direct investment tend to come with huge incentives, including tax breaks and preferential access to fertile land and water.
“Similarly, regional and national water policies (such as SADC Protocol on Shared Water Sources) in Southern Africa remain fixated on economic principles, public health and hygiene, without consideration of its role as a productive resource for women and small holder farmers,” Minister Muchinguri said.
She said women needed to have secure land tenure to prevent displacements, entice them to invest in land and result in women’s improved access to credit.
The minister also rendered her support towards the empowerment of women small holder farmers to achieve food security in the region.
“When women are empowered as stewards of their environment the result is, communities are able to adapt to changes. I do hereby reiterate my support to women small holder farmers in the SADC region. I support your demand for recognition and investment in infrastructural development which will ease the burden of care,” she said.
“I support your demand for access to land and secure land rights. I support the need for the implementation of gender sensitive policies at national level and the domestication of regional policies.”
Speaking at the same occasion, Oxfam country director, Jan Vossen called upon governments in the region to offer their full support towards small holder farmers.
“We call upon governments in the region to honour their commitment to allocate 10 percent of their annual budget and invest in agriculture and target this 10 percent towards small holder farmers and especially to women small holder farmers,” he said.
The Expo on Sustainable Livelihoods is a launch pad for a regional food and climate justice campaign aimed to work against hunger and vulnerability in the face of climate change.