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ECOWAS Parliament partners UN, AU, Oxfam, others on gender equality in Agric Investment in Africa

The ECOWAS Parliament has synergise with development partners as part of the effort to enhance women’s participation in agricultural investment in Africa,

The Speaker of the parliament, Moustapha Cisse Lo, made this known at a two-day Conference on Promoting Gender Equality in Agricultural Land Investments in Africa organised by Oxfam and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in collaboration with the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja. Representatives of the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) were also at the meeting.

Cisse Lo stressed that targeting female producers in agriculture would help to boost agricultural practice in the community, hence, there is the need to address under-development of women in agriculture.

He said every obstacle that stop women from excelling in agricultural investment in the subregion must be looked into, adding that legal framework to checkmate these problems should not only be put in place but be strengthened and implemented.

He recalled that ECOWAS, as an organisation, gives priority to women in the community.

The speaker noted that the ECOWAS Commission did not only have a Gender Department headed by a commissioner for gender but the ECOWAS Parliament has a Standing Committee on Gender to promote the course of women.

According to him, the parliament also set up ECOWAS Female Parliamentarians Association (ECOFEPA) as part of the body’s commitment to gender equality.

Cisse Lo, who said the parliament is ready to collaborate with partners on achieving the set goal, also sought for financial support from the partners.

According to the Representative of the Food and Agriculture of the UN, Tacko Ndiaye, who is the Senior Officer of Gender, Equality and Rural Development of the organisation, despite the widespread recognition of women’s contributions to food security and nutrition in their household and communities, they have continued to be discriminated against.

“Compared to their male counterparts, they have less secure access to productive resources, employment opportunities, markets, finance and rural services. Their land rights continue to be neglected”, she said.

Similarly, Head, Rural Economy Division of the African Union, Dr. Janet Eseme, while acknowledging that land play a crucial role in poverty alleviation in Africa, owing to the fact that most Africans rely on agriculture for their survival, lament the huddles women face in acquiring land for large scale agricultural productions.

She disclosed that the AU Commission in attempt to address the situation established guiding principles on governance of land investments to guarantee and protect the interest of women.

On her part, Agriculture and Investment Adviser, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Carin Smaller, stated that if Africa truly wants to end poverty and issues relating to climate change, women must be the engine of agricultural development.

She lamented that yield of women farmers are about 20% lower than their male counterpart, adding that closing the gap in agriculture could bring about 150m people out of poverty.

In his keynote address, Regional Director, Oxfam International, Adama Coulibaly, revealed that the recent increase in the acquisition of large parcels of land for agricultural investments in Africa has posed a new challenge.

He said communities, families are being alienated from their lands without adequate compensation while small-Holder farmers who are mainly women are highly marginalized.

“In most of our countries, women’s tenure right tends to be more insecure, with fewer parcels of land documented in their names. Due to lack of legal ownership, women in most communities have been disadvantaged where private companies acquire and compensate ‘legal’ landowners by virtue of documents of ownership,” he said.

He said Oxfam as an organisation has been focused in tackling the unequal access to rural women to resources, especially to land.

He urged legislators at the conference to ensure laws and policies that would ensure that investments in their countries are inclusive and of benefit to all.

The stakeholders, therefore, unanimously agreed that laws and policies that are targeted at empowering women, particularly in the ownership of land, which is a major factor in agriculture would go a long way in fastracking development in Africa