ACHIEVING A PROSPEROUS AFRICA , ONE WOMAN AT A TIME.
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
In Zambia: The smile of Africa lies a vibrant mix of culture, hardworking women as well as arable land for food production. Here you find Chilanga a town in which Sussana, one of our teammates was born and has lived all her life in. Farming here isn’t just like other parts of the world where its either one is a farmer or not. Everyone despite their vocation farms. Susan’s parents were both the eldest of their families, this meant that they had the responsibility of taking care of all their younger siblings. This also meant working extra hard in the fields to have enough food .To encourage them all to work, they used the adage pang’ono pang’ono ndi mtolo meaning bit by bit causes a heap. So the elders made little hoes for Susanna and her siblings .While they didn’t do much in the field , it was the introduction to farming as part of the fabric of their lives.
In the spirit of pang’ono pang’ono ndi mutolo Sussana belongs to the Tweende Young Farmers Cooperative which adds value to agricultural products and hosts entrepreneurship camp for children during holidays .she also owns a club called Malo Abwino (safe spaces) which encourages youths to make their community better: from planting trees to helping out at mundawanga conservation park. Every act causes a heap of change.
Being able to speak Nyanja tonga, bemba, and soli which are dominant languages in Chilanga she voluntarily helps agricultural extension officers to disseminate information to women farmers. Apart from her own experiences ,here she sees and hears first hand stories about the skewed agricultural system which requires great work from women but rewards them very little. Now bringing our food vision, we believe that we can better the lots of women in Chilanga and by extension Zambia and Africa because the same inequality resonates right across the continent. Our efforts will resonate pang’ono pang’ono ndi mtolo adding bit by bit to a heap of women’s equality in the agricultural space.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Chilanga is by a large hill, a major decline in altitude between the plateau of Lusaka Province, and the Kafue River Valley. It lies about 15 kilometres south of the greater city of Lusaka.It is multi-ethnic with a good number of its residents working in Lusaka or surrounding towns .Proximity to agriculture research bodies makes it a hub of scientific knowledge. It is home to Mount Makulu Research Station and HQ of the Zambia Agricultural Research Institute, National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research Animal research centre, the Balmoral Livestock and veterinary Research institute, Department of Fisheries laboratories, tsestse and trypanosomiasis control centre. Munda Wanga Environmental park (Zoo and Botanic garden) and parays game park are some of this town’s treasures which is also the home of the Department of National Parks and wildlife.
Initially, Chilanga was a white settlement during the colonial era the town is now predominantly black. It was declared a district in the year 2011 . The town has a total population of 107,051 with males accounting for 53,863, females 53,188 and households 21853 as at 2010 National Census . The population was projected to have grown to 152,824 in 2019.
Chilanga`s economy is primarily driven by agriculture at both small and large scales. This is due to its arable land and good rainfall pattern evenly distributed throughout the District. It’s close proximity to the City of Lusaka, favourable weather conditions and improved governance system provide a conducive environment for investment in the district which has vast opportunities.
The district falls under the Agro-ecological Region known as one of the two regions that have the greatest agricultural potential .The District Agricultural office also has a total of 14000 small scale women farmers registered under cooperatives. The main crops grown are: Maize, Soybeans, groundnuts, as well as various vegetables, potatoes. A district agricultural show takes place once a year. On 30th November, 2019, the first ever women farmers and food processors exhibition showed a few women have begun to add value to these herbs. The district enjoys the leadership of political, civil traditional and faith based personnel at various levels. They all work together.
Fish farming is one of the major activities in the district as it has 25 fish ponds and six Dams which are restocked with species of Tilapia, Rendalli, Oreochromis, Macrochir and Oreochromil. .Likewise is quarry /mining which accounts for very large shipments to the mines in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia.
Maize is eaten extensively here as a snack , boiled or roasted and in main meals as porridge or nshima. A traditional drink called chibwantu is also a delicacy in Chilanga. People also eat vegetables fresh or dried (i.e chibwabwa, rape, kalembula, okra, impwa,cabbage.) Meat fish, chicken, beef, Fruits: Mangoes, makole, bananas, mabuyu, guavas, mulberries, vitunguza, cucumber and vingai.
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Gender parity has always been skewed however the level of that lopsidedness is in abysmally proportion in Africa especially in the agricultural space. And this is largely no different in Chilanga district of Zambia .While 70% of the labour force on the continent is supplied by women, they are totally left out in the dynamics of things. Women hardly ever own the land which they till, they can’t get credit to invest in their farming ventures and sometimes access to inputs to better their yields is a tug of war. While our vision focuses more on tackling the social injustice linked to economics and fixing the cultural bias against women, these two central themes affect other areas such as the environment , diets, technology and policy in weighty proportions.
Without the required economic clout and a strong cultural stance women are handicapped in being in positions of authority and are not present in matters of policy .
Without enough money also it is hard to access technologies that can be life changing thus a lot of them are constrained to labor intensive primitive practices such as back breaking hand weeding which leaves them not only less productive but maimed for life as they begin to age .This also tells on the environment as it is subjected to a lot of wear and tear lacking a regenerative future.
The lack of economic means imply that women can’t afford well balanced diets and costlier class of food such as protein. This means that their children are more prone to malnutrition and stunting leading to other issues such as poor performance in school (that is if the children are lucky enough to have their schools fees paid for as their mothers could rarely afford this because of poor economic stance)
Change is a hard thing to grapple with especially when the current circumstances fuel people’s ego and a sense of control. So we foresee that with an increasing change of status quo such as the one we are proposing that some men will definitely feel threaten. This might mean that they may not want to help in working towards achieving this mission .Even when the vision becomes a reality they may still find ways to oppose the women and/or thwart the efforts. This is a major down side that we see in the vision that we are proposing as we move towards 2050.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
The challenges for the interim and short term are exactly why we are crafting this vision.
For the challenge that will come by being successful with what we are proposing (i.e. 2050), this will be addressed by carrying the men along as we set out. We will educate on the need to support our women pointing to the gains that society as whole will amass. We believe that If you educate a woman, you educate her children, and by extension her community as we are a living evidence to this. By economically empowering a woman , her family and surrounding neighbors benefits.
We will also seek out authority figures like local chiefs and clan leaders who other men respect and sell our vision to them .There are also men who have a history of supporting women empowerment i.e. like those that form part of our core team and multi stakeholders. So we will also seek out such people in the larger Chilanga district .Another approach is to ensure that the relevant government agencies and personnel are part of our engaged stakeholders so that they can use their clout to help us advance our cause .
Finally we are so looking at a cultural way of tackling this. One way we have thought out is to engage the Senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II (Elizabeth Mulenje) who holds the chieftainship of the Soli people of Chilanga as well as Chongwe Districts in Lusaka Province. Being a chieftainess in the area since 1976, She is the second female Nkomeshya since 19th century who is mythologized as having spiritual powers that allowed her to veil her people to protect them from enemies so she commands a lot of respect. Beyond cultural relevance she also took up leadership roles in politics as a member of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). During her time in the party, she was a member of the Central Committee and the UNIP Women's League. From 1979 to 1986, She also served as Minister of State of Home Affairs in Zambia . In 2013 she was elected as the chairperson of the House of Chiefs in Eastern Province. This made her the first woman elected to serve as chairperson since the position was created in 1965.
Chieftainess Nkomeshya has received accolades for her work in fighting to end child marriages in her region so we know that she isn’t new to advocacy and would be open to supporting more avenues to empower women which tweaking the agricultural industry will play a huge in . As a woman who has excelled in a male dominated field we believe this also will endear our project to her and make her a strong ally for our cause .Using her cultural clout which extends beyond chilanga to other districts such as Chongwe where the Silo people which she rules extend will transcend to speedy adoption of our proposal in the scaling period to other districts/provinces beyond the Chilanga pilot. Efforts are currently being made to intimate her majesty with our proposition.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
Women would have been better empowered in more concrete ways to also benefit appropriately from the agricultural sector.
They would be allowed to own land on which they farm. They would have the wherewithal to buy land unfettered if they so wish. The days of having access only through a male relative such as a husband, father or brother would be gone .They would no longer be as subject to losing access to land rights in the case of a male relatives death or divorce or mere choice.
Customs and cultural practices, unfavourable laws and policies that contribute to putting the women at a disadvantage simply because of their gender will be gone.
Beyond just farmers involved in primary production, this would have cascaded to having more women in the valuechain- plant scientists, genetists, agribusiness people ,Agricultural engineers, agronomists , agricultural economicist , extension worker ,extension government policy makers etc . Younger girls would have been prepared for new jobs in agriculture and future of Ag i.e big data
They would have access to equal inputs such as quality seeds, fertilizer, farming machinery and better agricultural extension services leading to improved agricultural practices. Access to financial services with many more mainstreamed woman-focused services being available to them .They will be at liberty to chose the crops to be grown not the one dictated to them by their male relatives as well as have control over the income which they generate from such crops.
This will also positively impact the children as well as the men. More economic power means more improved diets and school fees for their children. The girl child can aspire to more seeing that there are many inspiring examples all around then .Men will also be eased from huge economic burden that they carry because now their household earns better as the economic potential of an erstwhile half of the population(nearly 50% of the region which are women) is fully unlocked .
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
OUR AIM IS TO HELP AFRICAN WOMEN GAIN ECONOMIC POWER WHICH IS PROPORTIONATE TO THEIR INPUT WHILE WORKING TO PRODUCE FOOD NEEDED TO ACHIEVE A HUNGER FREE WORLD BY 2050.
Towards the end of last year whilst on the Alliance for Science Global Leadership Fellows Program at Cornell University in the US, the first three core members of our team met and shared their burden to assuage the gender disparity quagmire which the African women experience in the agricultural sector .These are Sussana Phiri , a farmer from Zambia, Slyvia Tetteh who works for the Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana and Ruramiso Mashumba, a young accomplished and very influential Zimbabwean commercial farmer who represents youth in agriculture at continental and global levels .Another fellow of the program from the previous 2018 cohort , Chibuike Emmanuel who is a Nigerian farmer as well as development entrepreneur also shared this burden so he joined up as an in-team mentor .Since then the team has been interrogating conditions in the countries/regions where the founding team members come from using systems thinking and human centered design approach to ascertain the ideal location which will be the most appropriate to pilot the project in, in order to get the desired impact and result as soon as possible.
Members of the team have been disturbed that in Africa, majority of women farmers are considered to be highly vulnerable as they live in extreme poverty and cannot afford to offer their families better education. 60-80% of women in Africa are involved in Agriculture at primary level providing averagely about 50% or more of the labour force . 70% of food eaten on the continent is grown by women farmers yet they own far less than 20% of the land .How does one effectively work in a sector where she doesn’t have access to the most basic asset-land- in that sector ?. More so 1 in every 4 persons in sub Sahara Africa is starving. In the year 2050 , it is expected that the population on the continent willl double and therefore we need women farmers to be empowered with necessary skills to be able to feed the continent and ensure zero hunger.
THUS OUR AIM IS TO HELP AFRICAN WOMEN GAIN ECONOMIC POWER WHICH IS PROPORTIONATE TO THEIR INPUT WHILE WORKING TO PRODUCE FOOD NEEDED TO ACHIEVE A HUNGER FREE WORLD BY 2050.
Research according to FAO shows that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they would increase the yields of their farms by 20%-30% and reduce hunger by up to 17%. Arming women with more economic power means they would have the resources to invest in their children including their dietary needs as women plough back profits to their households, therefore alleviating poverty from the bottom up. This translates to money to acquire appropriate technologies and tools that will better their yield and engender climate smart agricultural practices. Such emboldenment will shift their worth culturally meaning that the voices would be heard - loud enough to influence policies.
The discuss at hand is one deeply intertwined in a complex maze of issues .So after due consultation with stakeholders in Chilanga, the broader Lusaka district and Zambia plus our experience as well as considering further detailed-research-based studies such as the one done by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (https://www.gatesfoundation.org/TheOptimist/Articles/women-farmers-africa-gender-equality-agriculture-by-ruth-meinzen-dick) we came up with this comprehensive five prong approach to systematically tackle this dilemma. While the ideal will be to headlong tackle all of them at once, concentrating on any or a combination of these will well place us on the way. These are
i. Solve the Land rights issues
.Through engaging cultural leaders and government authorities we will enact cultural reorientation and legislation bordering on the land rights . We will show that our aim isn’t to create animosity between men and women but to enable women become the most productive as they could be.
ii) Broker better access to inputs such as quality seed, extension services , technologies and machinery
This will not only make women more productive but provide the stewardship to guarantee a regenerative future for our planet
iii) Organize/facilitate grassroot/grasstop agribusiness training and foster access to finance as well market
This will translates directly to the bottom line of their agricultural endeavour making the women better business people so they are no longer viewed as high risk and it becomes easier to access capital as well as have more market inroads.
In doing this we will engage relevant agricultural organizations such farmers unions, cooperatives banks and companies
iv) Equip younger women and girls with the skill set needed for the future of food/ Ag – data Analytics, STEM etc .
This crop of women will be part of our leadership development ambassadors as well as other select women farmers cum Ag leaders . Beyond just farming, empowering women in all strata of the value-chain including for agricultural innovation and research capabilities will ensure competency that will attract more economic leverage.
Showcase successful women farmers in order to show other women that it is possible to succeed against all odds and enhance knowledge exchange .
Underlining all of these efforts will be sharing an active citizenry philosophical mindset with our beneficiaries-the need for women to succeed themselves but most importantly supporting one another to thrive as a collective and the immense geometric impact of such action on changing the current status quo of gender disparity.
To track the effectiveness of our food vision, our monitoring and evaluation matrix will include
-The level of land rights that women eventually have i.e land ownership, farming access given to women.
Have we been able to eliminate discrimination under the law and cultural practice against women? Do women have the same rights as men to buy, sell or inherit land? Do they have a choice on what is grown on the land? When there are legal rights which exist on paper, are they potent in reality and actual practice?
-Economic progress and stability of the women.
How much money is made by the women compared to before ?Can they open bank accounts or borrow money, sign a contract or sell their produce and be in charge of spending money earned ?
-We will develop a database on crops grown, hectare coverage and yields of farmer crops etc before and after our training programs (1 year later or after a farm season)
-We will be using surveys to collect feedback after training.
-Keep records of farmers who changed their farming practices after undergoing training (mechanization, type of seeds, fertilizers etc.)
-Track call backs from agricultural organizations who offered their platforms for training.
-Note the number of young women who we have trained and stay engaged in the agricultural sector .
Beyond the multi-stakeholder team which we have fostered and are working with in Zambia, we have already established relationships with female mentors such as Patience Koku a farmer from Nigeria, Dr. Emma Naluyima from Uganda who is the 2019 African Food Prize Winner, Beauty Manake a young lady of 35 years old who is the assistant minister of agriculture for Botswana and Dr. Sarah Evanega an international plant breeding professor at Cornell University US and the director of the Cornell Alliance for Science amongst others .Organization wise we have Zimbabwe Farmers Union, Southern African Confederation of Agriculture unions, Chamber of Agribusiness Ghana, Zambia Women in Agriculture and Research Development, National Union for Small Scale Farmers, Global Farmer Network, the Agriculture is Sexy Network and Mnandi .
What this translates to is that we have deeply stretched pan-African roots to scale our food vision beyond impacting Chilanga district in Zambia. Our outlook will enable us see the bottle necks in real time during this pilot phase, document them and begin to deploy a human centre design approach to tackle issues even before we launch in other parts of Africa.
Our ultimate goal is to create an ecosystem that will guarantee women farmers and generally women in Ag a community where they can belong to in order to grow their potential and support one another. The women will have access to information on Agribusiness, appropriate agricultural technologies, communication skills and grassroots trainings .By 2025, we anticipate reaching 1 million of these women and empowering 50 million women by 2050.
As former US President Barack Obama said at Kasarani when he visited Nairobi, Kenya, “Communities that give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons, are more peaceful, are more prosperous and develop faster.” This maxim captures our motivation and is a testament to our conviction that African women if properly empowered can feed the world by 2050.
-Keep calm ! African women will feed the world
It is worth noting that we already contested and won a $10,000 grant from Cornell University to test out our initiative even though the funds are yet to be disbursed.
Our aspirations are chronicled here
Our initiative Women Who Farm Africa Leadership Development Program is currently under the auspices of Alliance for Science which is housed by the International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS) at Cornell University, US .Eventually it will metamorphose into a stand-alone organisation.