Zambia: Mama Cecilia Makota speaks out for women farmers (by Mutimba Mazwi, for Farm Radio Weekly in Zambia)

| March 12, 2012

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In her youth, farmer Mrs. Cecilia Makota trained to be a nurse. Now she speaks out for women farmers in Zambia.

Mrs. Makota, who is known as Mama Cecilia, starting nursing at the age of 22. Looking back, she says, “I had a fulfilling career. But while working, I thought agriculture would be a good undertaking after retiring.”

Now 58, she has been farming for over 12 years. She was inspired to go into farming by her parents, Zimbabwean immigrants who settled in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital city. She finds farming rewarding, and a good source of income to support herself and her grandchildren.

Mama Cecilia grows tobacco and soy beans. She says, “Last farming season, I sold 32 bales of tobacco to the Tobacco Board of Zambia … and made $6,254 dollars.” She oversees a team of more than 20 workers.

Mama Cecilia says there’s always some stigma attached to being a woman in agriculture. She explains, “There’s this thinking in our communities that agriculture is for men. I would ask womenfolk to take up the mantle and help change thinking at both [the] community and national level that only men can manage farming.”

In addition to farming, Mama Cecilia is the National Coordinator for Zambian Women in Agriculture, a non-governmental organization based in Lusaka. In that position, she advocates a wider role for women farmers in both policy matters and land ownership.

She hopes the Zambian government will pursue a policy that grants land ownership to women, saying they have an important role to play in their communities. While a small number of women own land in Zambia, land ownership is viewed as men’s domain. This situation is worse in rural areas, where the perception that women have  secondary status to men is more pronounced.

Mama Cecilia says, “I would be happy to see more women being given access to land ownership. That in turn gives them access to finance so they can borrow against the land they own as collateral.”

Mama Cecilia has a message for women thinking about farming as a profession: “Go for it. There are many opportunities you can engage in. You have opportunities in poultry, pig farming, and other cash crops.”