Appropriate farming tools for African women farmers

| March 3, 2019

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All of this week’s Farmer stories are about women’s success and women’s empowerment. But we know that there are many roadblocks on the way to full empowerment and equality. For women farmers, one of these barriers is a lack of appropriate farming tools, as farming tools are typically designed with men in mind.

The economic status of African women farmers strongly influences the type of tools they use and the way they use those tools. Women typically do not receive very much income from their farming activities, so it is difficult for them to buy agricultural tools and access transport. This situation is further complicated by the social and banking rules that limit women’s access to long-term financial resources and credit. In practice, most women do not own land, and land ownership is the main source of credit worthiness.

In many areas, men are increasingly migrating to urban centres because of perceived job opportunities. Conflicts and wars also take men away from their families. In all these circumstances, women and children are left on their own to carry out the family tasks, including most if not all farm work. Money sent back home to women farmers is often not enough for them to purchase new tools and other agricultural inputs in addition to meeting other needs in the family, such as school fees and medicine.

A study in five African countries—Burkina Faso, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—showed that specific cultural factors also have a direct impact on African women farmers’ choice of tools and the overall conditions of their farm work. It was also discovered that some solutions clash with religious beliefs, taboos, and traditional community attitudes.

In this short drama, a village elder, a blacksmith, a male farmer, and a woman farmer meet at a village square to discuss the conditions and cultural factors that have an impact on African women farmers’ choice of farming tools and techniques.