Newsletter Dialogue Series. Issue no. 3, Volume XI, August 2011

Women farmers are the pillars of African agriculture. They are responsible for growing, selling, buying and preparing food for their families. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), over two thirds of all women in Africa are employed in the agriculture sector and produce nearly 90 per cent of food on the continent. 

Yet even as the guardians of food security, they are still marginalized in business relations and have minimal control over access to resources such as land, inputs such as improved seeds and fertilizer, credit and technology. A combination of logistical, cultural, and economic factors, coupled with a lack of gender statistics in the agricultural sector, means that agricultural programmes are rarely designed with women's needs in mind. As a result, African women farmers have no voice in the development of agricultural policies designed to improve their productivity. 

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) is working to change this. Recognizing the critical role that women farmers play in ensuring household food security, in July 2009, FANRPAN launched Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM), a three year pilot project supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The project seeks to strengthen women farmers' ability to advocate for appropriate agricultural policies and programmes in Africa through an innovative tool, Theatre for Policy Advocacy (TPA). The WARM project is piloted in Malawi and Mozambique.