On the surface, the facts are startling. According to Farming First, a coalition of farmers, engineers, scientists and industry, women[lightbox full=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaiban/6866495548/”][/lightbox] constitute up to 80% of Africa’s smallholder farmers and are produce around 90% of its food.
Key issues in the northern Ugandan context, the focus of the article published by Thomson Reuters Foundation, relate to issues of gender inequalities in extension service provision and land ownership.
Though the article does not mention role of energy in improving agricultural productivity, this is a crucial issue. A reliable energy source can add value to agricultural products by, for example, allowing for mechanisation, processing and storage.
There are two areas of note to think about here. The first is simply how a reliable energy source can positively impact the lives of women farmers. Accounts of women and children spending over a week to plough one acre with the hand hoe suggest that mechanization has the potential to transform rural women livelihoods.
At the same time, a very important consideration given accounts of gender differences in productive activities in rural Africa is the importance of ensuring that men and women have equal access to land and tools. Often men have greater access to both, and this leads to significant challenges for women and their livelihoods. Only with greater access to land and tools will Africa’s women farmers improve their livelihoods and their communities.