Three weeks ago I was in Lira, northern Uganda working on what justice means for women in a post conflict community. When we think of justice, agriculture might not be the immediate thing that comes to mind but here we were here listening to women who a decade after the conflict ended are unable to feed their families.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, women make up 50 percent of the agricultural labor force, but manage plots that are roughly 20-30 percent less productive. And land rights remain a sticky issue in northern Uganda for all but specific challenges remain for women.
In Uganda women more than men at 76 percent versus 62 percent work in farming. For women in post conflict communities productivity is limited due to various reasons and trauma as we heard was one of them. A lot of women and men who experienced violence over the 20 year LRA were sent home at the end of the conflict to go back to till lands with no support.
Without a proper accelerated plan that considers challenges of post conflict communities, many communities remain food insecure even if they have land. Many women we spoke to who were tortured and suffered sexual abuse during the conflict are unable to carry out manual labour.
From listening to these women to Lusaka, Zambia where the African Development Bank (AfDB) is hosting a Civil Society Organizations Forum on three of its five key priority areas; agriculture, energy and jobs for the youth the question remains. When we speak of investing in agriculture and women, are we looking at specific interventions that post-conflict communities need?
AfDB is set to launch support facility for African women in agriculture business and research but how much will this trickle down to communities that have been held back by conflict? We can construction of roads, encourage agricultural cooperatives and agro-industrial parks and many other suggested interventions which are good but for communities that recovering from conflict, special attention should be paid to match realities on the ground. Investments must benefit the ordinary farmers struggling to produce food against a backdrop of post-war impacts. We have already seen a rush of investors going to acquire land in these communities.
The women I met in Barlonyo simply needed ox-plough technology to be able to till their land quicker and plant in time and feed their families. How do we support them with tools to enable them to look beyond just feeding families and expanding their opportunities?. Without reducing the manual labour intensive agriculture currently expected of these women there’s little productivity from them and their communities.Investment in agriculture targeting smallholder farmers must also look to specific challenges of communities emerging out of conflict.
The AfDB CSO forum due to begin tomorrow offers great opportunity for working to bring more investments in local communities and such vulnerable groups like women emerging out of conflict should be given attention.
This blog is part of a series of personal reflections on the AfDB priority areas of energy, agriculture and jobs for youth. More thoughts from the CSO Forum will be out in the coming days.