Africa must invest in women farmers in post conflict communities

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.

Akullu Eunice in her garden late afternoon May 7, 2016 in Aromo, Lira, northern Uganda.  IsisWICCE/Rachel Mabala Photo

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.


6 thoughts on “Africa must invest in women farmers in post conflict communities

  1. This is great Rosebell…. we in my little area of the Wairarapa here in New Zealand are partnering with women and farmers in Odek subcounty doing what you suggest… provision of ox ploughs, etc.
    What is not needed is chemical and mechanical based intensive farming which destroys the environment and poisons the land and the people.
    Thank you for your stand!!!!

  2. Of course this is 100% correct, however, to solve the gender issue is a long winding road, with many potholes, roadblocks and unexpected situations. It’s not that simple, we know that for over 50 years when the “Development Aid” started in the mid sixties, with revolutions and post colonial euphoria with new (male) leaders and promises. And look what has become of that, it’s a typical male reaction that once they smell the power they stick on it and find all ways to maintain the status quo.

    In a similar way, the water problems are not solved. Corruption and vested interest are happy with the Status Quo, but what is worrying, is that most major international NGOs are more and more becoming part of the problems in stead of solving them. Often more focussed on what works for them in fundraising than in solving problems in the field.

    Look for instance what has happens in rural Africa with water supply. Most NGOs have no problems whatsoever to continue to donate fragile pumps that cost a fortune to maintain; Of about 500.000 waterpumps, over 60% is out of function for most of the time or abandoned and the remaining 40% can only be maintained at unreasonable high costs, draining the rural poor from their hard earned money. This kind of “aid” has nothing to do with poverty reduction, on the contrary, it makes the poor devastated and even more poor. No wonder young people try to get away to Europe, at least there people have water every day! But who cares?

    If only the women in Africa could have a say in what the NGOs would give them, Africa would look much better. We, continues to fight for more transparence and better handpumps with water bottles and laundry units to support the heavy burden of women in Africa.

    It’s a long road, but the direction is clear and let’s clean up the mess where and whenever we find it!

    @:) cheers

  3. It is okay to offer such equipment to rural women; but how do we offer equipment to women who do not have access/own the land? Lets talk and handle the issue of land ownership. I have worked in Northern Uganda for the last ten years and women do not have access to land.

    1. You are right Doreen, the issues are related. land rights and control are the heart of any agricultural development we will see

  4. Dear Ms Kagumire,

    your post is very informative and touches on a number of highly interesting and complex subtopics. I am currently working on a blog on women’s economic inequality in Uganda as part of a students’ project at the University of Portsmouth. We are slowly starting to reach a wider international readership due to me being part of the Portsmouth University exchange program. As part of the discussion we have touched on the agricultural sector and its importance, but have not yet talked about post conflict communities yet.
    I understand you are probably too busy to deal with students’ projects at the moment. However, if it is possible for you to give us a few minutes of your time, it would mean a lot to get a statement on female farmers in post conflict zones from you as an expert, in order to keep the discussion going.

    Kind regards,
    Jana Sablewski

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