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Vision 2025: Embracing strategic gender needs in agricultural sector

By The Guardian

VISION 2025 states that Tanzania is determined to transform itself from a low productivity agricultural economy to a semi-industrialized one led by modernized and highly productive agricultural activities.

Agricultural activities are effectively integrated and buttressed by supportive industrial and service activities in both rural and urban areas.

The transformation is expected to create an agricultural economy which generates reasonably high incomes and ensures food security and food self-sufficiency.

However, the vision assumes a gender neutral role by ignoring practical and strategic gender needs of women.

Practical gender needs are meant to address physical needs of women which are different from those of men.

Strategic gender needs are meant to remove gender gaps in the agriculture sector which lead to further exploitation of women.

As such, the transformation to industrialization can lead to further marginalization of women in the agricultural sector.

Agriculture is one of the key sectors where most women and poor men derive their livelihoods. Nevertheless, agriculture is one of the sectors in which the government has been paying inadequate attention regarding the interests of women and other marginalised groups.

The agricultural sector has a potential to transform Tanzania. The country ha approximately 30 million hectares of underutilised arable land for agricultural production. Both rain-fed and irrigation agriculture can take place.

As growth of agriculture continues to decline, the majority of marginalized people and rural female peasants are affected. The trend gives more room to large investors with huge capital to drive the agriculture sector leaving the majority peasant women and men to rely on rain-fed agriculture.

Given the cultural set-up where women have been assigned caring roles, the household burden will disproportionately affect women.

Programme Officer, Mobilization and Outreach at TGNP Mtandao Deogratius Temba has advised the government to set aside adequate funds for investments in the agricultural sector as per 2014 Malabo Declaration by allocating at least 10 per cent of public expenditure to agriculture.

The realisation of this goal requires inclusion of more women in the decision-making roles affecting the agricultural sector.

Temba said that allocating enough budget to agriculture will change the lives of smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are marginalized people and rural female peasants.

He further called upon for the government to invest more in the irrigation subsector, the main reason being that smallholder farmers are subject to significant losses of their agricultural produce because of overreliance on rain-fed agriculture.

Climate change leading to extended drought periods increasingly hinders rain-fed agriculture. TGNP recommends that the government needs to substantially increase investments in the irrigation sector because the sector is underutilized.

If the country expands the area under irrigation by only 6.3 per cent, 100 per cent of all food needs in the country will be met. More distressing, the government does not give adequate priority to smallholder farmers and women in particular.

According to Tizeba, the government will only encourage women groups to unite and form cooperatives as a golden bullet solution to women’s challenges in agriculture. Moreover, the ministry will promote the creation of industries to employ women and the youth.

The mentioned interventions are yet to be implemented. One cannot be sure if the government is going to keep its promises. As such, gender sensitive budget tracking needs to be applied to monitor implementation of government’s promises.

The annual growth rate of agriculture has been declining since 2000. This has been seriously hindering progress of the country to reach a middle-income status by 2025.

It is required that the agricultural sector achieves an annual GDP growth rate of at least 6 per cent for the country to attain a middle-income status in 2025.

From a transformative feminist perspective, a decline in the growth of agriculture partly reflects decreased morale of women to produce more. Patriarchal culture is the main reason for the decreased morale.

TGNP recommends that the government create policies which will allow women to own land. Women’s morale will increase, if they are allowed more control of the agricultural land.

Again, this is going to have a multiplier effect by creating employment for the majority of Tanzanians including women and producing enough raw materials for the industries. In so doing, the middle-income status will be attained.

Agriculture employs the majority of Tanzanians. However, the performance of the sector is seriously hindered by presence of deep rooted patriarchal culture which disempowers women.

Although women provide the labour force in the sector, they lack decision-making power on the output of their produce. TGNP advocates the empowerment of women by creating an atmosphere which allows them to participate in decision making at all levels.

Land for agricultural production is traditionally owned by men. The patriarchal practice subjects women to slavery in their households including working as labourers in the farm land.

If women own land, they own their produce of that land. Therefore, TGNP advocates for equal control and ownership of land. For example, the government needs to create national policies and local government regulations to give equal ownership to both men and women.

Overall government’s agricultural specific strategies, policies, regulations and plans for the entire sector assume a gender neutral position. Clear interventions aimed at attainment of gender equality in the agricultural sector are missing.

As it has been the case with the budgeting process, the language being used throughout the mentioned government documents is gender neutral. For instance, there are no women specific interventions aimed at reducing existing gender gaps.

The practice leaves room for exclusion of women and other marginalized people. Second, a link between government interventions and international set standards is blurred. Some of the national targets are overambitious as they surpass those set by the international community.

Likewise, some of the national targets are lower than those of set by the international community. Some of the key international targets have been ignored in the mentioned key government.

Tanzania is a signatory to nearly all international instruments which obligate the country to adhere to the set international standards for attainment of sustainable agricultural growth.

Gender mainstreaming continues to remain a lip service whereby create national gender instruments but commits insufficient funds to attain them. The budgeting process continues to maintain a gender neutral position by allocating fewer funds to gender sensitive projects.

TGNP’s targets are based on government’s commitment in the sector and research by the same. The international standards for the agricultural sector were derived from the SDGs and the Malabo Declaration.

Tanzania’s key government’s documents which were assessed are National Agricultural policy of 2013, Agricultural Marketing Policy of 1998, FYDP II and ASDS II (Agricultural Sector Development Strategy–II).

Overall, the government has a long way to achieve gender empowerment in the agricultural sector. The government key documents have, among other things, missed clear gender targets.

They are also gender neutral creating a possibility of increased marginalization of women and other vulnerable populations.

According to TGNP, the main constraints facing smallholder farmers include, but are not limited to, poor gender relations, application of poor agricultural technologies, inadequate capital, poor entrepreneurship skills, low productivity of land, labour and production inputs, underdeveloped irrigation potential, limited capital and access to financial services.

Others are inadequate agricultural technical support and extension services, poor rural infrastructure; infestations and outbreaks of crop pests and diseases; erosion of natural resource base and environmental degradation.

Weak producer organizations, depressed prices for primary commodities in global markets and insecurity with respect to property rights to land and its use as collateral for credit; inadequate participation of youth in agriculture and limited involvement of private sector in agricultural development.

Other sources gave indicated that Tanzania commits to adhere to several international commitments related to agriculture. For instance, Tanzania is a signatory to the Malabo Declaration.

Therefore, Tanzania commits to the pursuit of agriculture-led growth as a main strategy to achieve targets on food and nutrition security and shared prosperity as well as enhancing investment finance in agriculture.

Other commitments include ending hunger by 2025; halving poverty by the year 2025 through inclusive agricultural growth and transformation, and enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production systems to climate variability and other related risks.

Accordingly, there is no doubt that a policy framework for gender empowerment has been developed in Tanzania. However, gender mainstreaming has not been factored in the implementation of government’s interventions in actual practice.

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