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The climate change phenomenon has brought to the fore the need for consistent, timely, relevant and intelligent support to women for them to secure their critically important roles in food security, health and biodiversity conservation.

In Zimbabwe drought-prone areas like Masvingo, Guruve North, Muzarabani and Matabeleland North and South, where the vagaries of climate change and food insecurity are most felt, call for the adoption of climate change adaptation mechanisms.

Experts also point out the need for concurrent change and adaptation at the community level where women are most engaged and at national Government level in addressing the country’s diverse needs and the international community level which still supports industrial farming methods and exports over domestic markets developments.

Government has pledged to work with organisations to craft policies to boost agricultural production and productivity among women farmers.

Recently at a workshop on Women in Land held by Zimbabwe Agriculture Income and Employment Development in conjunction with Agricultural Competitiveness noted that there existed a huge gender gap in agriculture in terms of women’s contributions to global economic output and the disparity in their ownership of and access to land, credit and inputs.

Permanent secretary of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development Mr Ngoni Masoka said the difference in agricultural yields achieved by men and women existed not because women were less productive but because they had low access to inputs.

“Women have limited access to improved seeds, fertilisers and equipment. Government will review existing and potential financing arrangements and mechanism for women economic empowerment in agriculture sector,” said Mr Masoka.

Women are urged to take up contract farming to increase production and achieve good quality standards and competitiveness based on productivity.

“Empowering women have a greater impact on families and communities if women empowered it increase the their ability to generate income and saving the country at large therefore alleviating hunger in the process and therefore giving them chance to take charge and improving economy of the country at large,” he said.

Women need to be fully integrated into the national agricultural matrix.

Executive director of Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre and Network, Pamela Mhlanga, said failure to recognize womemn would prove costly.

“If women are not integrated into the overall agriculture and land use and climate change strategy of the regions, then Government will not reap the benefits of investing in the country. Government can no longer afford to discount or underplay women’s role in local fisheries, farming, and food security. Therefore women need to be trained in the production and processing of small grains especially in the country’s drought prone regions. This will enhance long term food security,” Mhlanga said.

“Women must be empowered, our organization is there to apprise women on the provisions of the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act and also work on the misconception around empowerment, its objectives and to assist our membership in coming up with viable project proposals that empower women,” she said.

Key policy decisions must be able to foster women participation rather than the usual non-participatory top down, one directional way which has seen women being treated as an afterthought. Some of the policies, instruments and tools targeting women include legal provisions such as the right to vote or the right to own land, financial services including micro credit and rural cash infrastructure and practical training such as marketing, ICT, processing and small business training.

According to the Women’s Development Savings Credit Union founder and director Mrs Spiwe Gudza women farmers will contribute immensely to the economic development of the country.

“As an organization we are there to offer affordable loans and other credit facilities and market linkages by accepting any form of property as a collateral, and access to markets globally.

“These solutions have to take into account women’s socio economic productive roles, their cultural knowledge, intelligence or legacies. These solutions have also to make them to be actors in their own decisions and place women in global markets as mass producers of commodities for export and consumers of (imported) food,” she said.

Women Affairs Gender and Community Development Minister Oppah Muchinguri urged women to shun the dependency syndrome and work hard to improve their livelihoods and the life of nation at large by empowering themselves using their hands.

“Women should be at the forefront of engendering socio-economic development in their communities and the nation at large. The ministry is to establish 120 community gardens to reduce the Government’s burden in terms of ensuring food security at household level, ” Minister Muchinguri said.

Zimbabwe has achieved a lot in terms of promoting women in all sectors and Minister Muchinguri urged local research institutions to provide technological solutions to women in agriculture to help unleash their full potential and boost the country’s agricultural production and food security.

“Women need access to new and appropriate technologies. This will help increase yields and improve income for women and the nation at large. We must facilitate the rapid and equitable development of women in agriculture,” Minister Muchinguri said.

She said her ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation had already embarked on a community gardens initiative to enhance nutrition and food security.

She said the ministry had also engaged the Forestry Commission and launched beekeeping projects run by women at ward level. She revealed that there were plans to set up a women’s bank.

“It is also important for the industry and other stakeholders to engage with women in agriculture and livestock production to reduce post harvest losses and hunger. The 2014 gender budget has holistic land and livestock projects targeting three districts – Zvishavane in Midlands Chiredzi in Masvingo and Rushinga in Mashonaland Central for food production and proper environment management.”

Source : The Herald

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