2016 African Union Year of Human Rights: FAO and AU focus on women's rights to land, food, decent employment

Key stakeholders at AU meetings last month discussed practical actions to improve the livelihoods of African women, particularly in the context of agriculture and agro-processing initiatives.

© FAO / Daniel Hayduk


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is set to invest in securing women’s rights to land and other productive resources, developing their capacity to boost food production and creating more wealth for family farmers, while preventing and minimizing food losses and waste. The objective being to enforce women’s right to land, food and decent employment.

According to Mr. Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, who attended the 28th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council and the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (26-31 January 2016, Addis-Ababa), key stakeholders discussed practical actions required to improve the livelihoods of African women through initiatives including in agriculture and agro-processing during this focus year.

“With FAO's support to national governments, several countries have adopted national food and agricultural policies and action plans that fully integrate women's and men's needs. In this regard, FAO believes that investing in women along agricultural value chains is the right and smart thing to do for thriving rural communities and more gender equal societies in Africa”, said Mr. Bukar Tijani. 

“We are developing systemic capacity for expanding women’s opportunities in inclusive agricultural growth. For every dollar invested, the dividends are enormous in overcoming hunger, malnutrition and poverty and creating wealth for family farmers”, he added.

Bridging the gender gap at FAO

This 2016 African Union Year of Human Rights, with a focus on women’s human rights, provides a great opportunity to build on the 2014 Year of Agriculture and Food Security and the 2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment to make to equalize rights in access to safe, nutritious and affordable food, decent employment, finance and markets.

According to Tacko Ndiaye, FAO Senior Gender, Equality and Rural Development Officer, FAO is aligned with the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods adopted in June 2014 which called for deliberate and targeted public support for women to participate and directly benefit from the growth and transformation opportunities to improve their lives and livelihoods.

A particular focus of FAO is to support member Countries in the effective implementation of the “Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security” adopted by the Committee on Food Security in 2012. The Guidelines call upon States to ‘ensure that women and girls have equal tenure rights and access to land, fisheries and forests independent of their civil and marital status, and provide policy, legal and organizational frameworks that are non-discriminatory’.                                                                   

FAO and the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA) jointly organized a Conference on women in agriculture in November 2015 in Durban, South Africa, to provide a dialogue forum for sharing experiences and best practices on gender-sensitive financial and business services, innovative opportunities to improve women’s entrepreneurial skills and development, the progressive integration of their businesses into the formal economy and building of strategic alliances for women entrepreneurs.

Key issues addressed during the Conference, which will form the basis for strengthening partnerships between FAO and NPCA include financial inclusion for women in agribusiness; capacity development across value chains; knowledge sharing platforms and up-scaling or replication of models that can facilitate partnership between government, industry and academics for market penetration and competition. All these are key contributions to advancing women’s rights to food and decent employment.

Concrete actions

FAO is supporting women to participate more fully and profitably in value chain and agribusiness development by improving their access to financial services, business skills and technologies and innovations for agro-processing. At the same time, FAO is strengthening the capacities of rural institutions to provide gender responsive service delivery and enhancing resilience and social protection for women farmers.

FAO is also implementing a Technical Cooperation Project on Gender Responsive National and Regional Agricultural Investment Plans for meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge in the ECOWAS Region with the ECOWAS Commission, and will implement similar initiatives with other regional economic communities.

Gender assessments were carried out in 12 countries in the region to identify gender gaps in agricultural, rural development, food security and nutrition policies and programmes with a view to inform the next generation of National Agricultural Investment Plans and financing mechanisms. The aim is to ensure that women’s rights to food security, nutrition, resources and decent employment are enforced.

Science Development and Research

Two distinguished African Scientists - Prof. Umezuruike Linus Opara of Nigeria and Prof. Tebello Nyokong of South Africa were honoured with the prestigious Kwame Nkrumah Continental Scientific Awards, for their outstanding achievements in science, technology and innovation.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and Martial De Paul Ikounga, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, acknowledged that the programme is a joint effort between the Commission and its development partners towards a shared vision for promoting Africa’s development and integration through science, technology and innovation.

“FAO will continue supporting efforts to harness science, technology and innovation with talented men and women in the continent. This is a domain that speaks to us. Renowned Prof. Opara, for example, has often teamed up with FAO to develop and improve programmes to reduce postharvest food losses”, pointed out Mr. Bukar Tijani.


See also