ILRI / Markets / Women

Ethiopia State Minister opens the gender and market-oriented agriculture workshop

Address by Ato Wondirad Mandefro, State Minister of Agriculture, Ethiopia to the Workshop on Gender and Market-Oriented Agriculture held at the ILRI Campus, Addis Ababa, 31st January to 2nd February 2011.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a privilege and honor to welcome you all to Ethiopia from different parts of the world including Africa and Asia. It is an honor for Ethiopia to host this workshop, the first dialogue on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture, to pave the way to put science and research to practice.

Ranked 157th out of 168 countries listed in the Human Development Index prepared annually by UNDP (2010), it can be seen that Ethiopia has made rapid strides in the last decade which has resulted in a steady improvement in the quality of life. However, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed. Amongst them is the urgent need to enhance the quality of life of women, particularly in rural areas.

Over 85 percent of Ethiopian women reside in rural areas, where peasant families are engaged primarily in subsistence agriculture. Rural women are integrated into the rural economy, which is basically labor intensive and which exacts a heavy physical toll on all, including children. Women are often among the most disadvantaged in terms of access to education (with literacy rates of 34% and 28% enrollment rate from primary through to tertiary schools (49% and 41% respectively for men)) and political representation (only 8% of the seats in parliament are held by women). They are also economically weak, with an estimated income of USD 516 (expressed in terms of purchasing power parity) which is only half of that earned by men (USD PPP1008). In addition, many cultural norms and practices further discriminate against women.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has clearly put in its constitution the rights of women for equal economic development as men. Since 1993, Ethiopia has a national gender policy (National Policy on Women); and two National Action Plans on gender (2000 and 2006) were devised to achieve the objectives of the National Policy on Women. However, although much progress has been made, due to a number of constraints, many national targets for gender equality in agriculture are yet to be met. The main challenge being that women are less educated, not equally involved in decision making, and tend to benefit less from the overall agriculture and development process. In addition, women’s access to markets is particularly constrained, both by their many household obligations as well as other constraints on their mobility. So without doubt, addressing gender imbalance in market-oriented agriculture will yield high returns.

Estimates show that removing the constraints facing Ethiopian women in education and in the labor market could add almost 2 percentage points to GDP growth per year between 2005 and 2030. Adding the growth-effects of gender equality in agriculture suggests that there are huge economic benefits from including women more fully in development strategies.

Therefore, the new Agricultural Growth Program (AGP) that the government is embarking on has identified women and youth as one of the important target groups. The Project Development Objective is to increase agricultural productivity and market access for key crop and livestock products in targeted woredas with increased participation of women and youth.

A recent social assessment conducted identified several social groups in AGP woredas that are disadvantaged, including: Women and female-headed households, including women without access to farmland, female heads of households with little land and large families (including households with sufficient land but insufficient labor), and women in polygamous marriages whose property rights are not independent of the husband.

The AGP’s investments will meet domestic water needs, facilitate home gardening, and reduce the time that women spend carrying water, all of which should strengthen household income potential – particularly by improving women’s productivity. The extension service, in consultation with key stakeholders will identify improved technologies and management practices that respond to women, men, and youth farmers’ stated needs as expressed in the investment sub-project proposals. The project will accordingly enhance opportunities of women to access and manage natural resources and finance, and to participate more fully in social organizations and decisionmaking.

In MoA, the Rural Women’s Affairs Department promotes gender development in the agricultural sector at the federal level. The gender and nutrition aspects within the Agriculture Extension Department places more emphasis on home economics. This is mirrored at the regional level where Home Agents in the BoA are responsible for supporting women’s development through increasing women’s involvement in credit and savings, income generating activities (such as horticulture and small animals), home gardening and improving the household’s well-being. Some BoAs, such as Tigray, are actively mainstreaming gender into their work programmes by training Bureau and woreda planners.

The important research and the way forward to practice that will be discussed at this workshop will, I expect, make a headway for meeting these targets.

The IPMS project that the Federal Democratic Government of Ethiopia has been implementing with ILRI has has tried a number of innovative strategies and implemented interventions which included setting targets for women’s participation in project activities including technical interventions to improve productivity and production; access to inputs and services to produce marketable commodities; capacity building and knowledge sharing activities. The project now recorded a number of successes in benefiting women through market-oriented agriculture. To name a few: women in Goma have doubled their income through the IPMS sheep fattening project; women in Ada’a have benefited from dairy and bee-keeping (honey farming) projects; women in Dale have started to produce and supply pullets for semi-commercial poultry production. However, it also recognized that there are still some challenges that have to be overcome and the war is not won yet!

This workshop is important as it is bringing together researchers, practitioners, private sector and donors that have been working on efforts to promote market oriented agriculture in which gender is an integral component, to share lessons. It will also allow participants to synthesize lessons on what works in integrating gender and promoting women to participate in and benefit from agricultural markets. These lessons, strategies and approaches and an understanding of what makes them effective in the Ethiopian context will be immensely helpful to us in designing strategies to scale them out to assist the process of agricultural transformation.

In conclusion, I would like to underscore that the consideration of gender in Market-Oriented agriculture is crucial to our and other developing countries’ development efforts. The inclusion of gender will solve the agricultural growth and development riddle and fix the missing link. And this is what this workshop will aim to achieve.
I wish you all fruitful and stimulating discussions and a successful workshop! I look forward to learning more about the outcomes of the workshop in due course and attempt to internalise the learning while designing our strategies for scaling out promising technologies and approaches for transforming the agricultural sector.

Thank you!

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