There is widespread consensus that African countries still invest too little in agriculture. Only 7 of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have consistently reached the Maputo Declaration budget target of 10% investment in agriculture.
Smallholders dominate in agriculture, but not in visions for the future of agriculture. 90% of agricultural production comes from small farms and smallholder farms contribute 40-60% of rural incomes, as people combine farming with non-farm activities. While it varies across countries, women contribute between 50% and 80% of the agricultural workforce.
Rudo Makunike of NEPAD presented on the progress and lessons learnt from 10 years into the CAADP process, there are now 40 country compacts and 28 national investment plans. ECOWAS and COMESA both have regional CAADP compacts. Achievements include greater political commitment to agriculture, higher budget allocations, mobilised stakeholders around a common agenda, and promoted regional integration and coordination. CAADP has promoted not only production but also value addition.
Fatou Mbaye from ACORD and Ruchi Tripathi from ActionAid presented analysis from a joint report by their organisations, entitled ‘From rhetoric to action’ and ‘walking the talk’. Their research shows that, across much of the continent, agricultural research is mostly top-down and supply-driven. African governments need to increase investments in sustainable agriculture, by spending more on research and extension services and reorient them to address women farmers’ priorities. This requires involving women in defining research priorities.
Among the recommendations from ACORD and ActionAid were to improve the quantity and quality of public investment, increase the role of farmers’ cooperatives, re-orient spending priorities to focus on women farmers, step up investments in sustainable agriculture that reduces input-dependency, and ensure land tenure for women smallholder farmers.
CAADP is a useful framework because it recognises agriculture as it is helping to reverse the marginalisation of agriculture in the development agenda. As Ruchi Tripathi argued, CAADP has been positive: it pushes coordination among ministries and focuses donors’ efforts; and National Investment Plans have led to increased investment, but CAADP has not yet delivered to women smallholders. National Investment Plans and CAADP compacts are all consistent with the CAADP framework, but none of these prioritise smallholders and smallholder women in particular.
The biggest private investors in African agriculture are women smallholders, so both public and private investment should be in them. The litmus test for all CAADP planning should be this: what would a women smallholder like in terms of agricultural spending?
A concrete suggestion put forward in the discussion was that rural women smallholders’ associations should be supported to meet before CAADP meetings to organise themselves as a caucus to influence multi-stakeholder engagements.
Shingaidzo Mupindo from FAO argued that, if women had the same resources as men, they could increase production from their farms by 20-30%. Even if you connect smallholders to markets, when it comes to who controls the money, husbands will say to a wife ‘did you bring land here?’, suggesting that male claims to the land remains the basis for control over incomes, despite women’s labour contributions.
FAO’s approach is to partner with governments and others to promote the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, to provide technical capacity, to link land access and tenure security to investment and production growth. Yet she recognized that these processes have not yet touched ordinary women smallholders.
Some criticisms of CAADP are that there is a multiplicity of initiatives and a risk of bureaucratization – too much talk, and little action. There is a compelling need for attention to livelihood needs. In the coming 10 years CAADP will be on using public investments to leverage private investments, and promoting ‘wealth creation’. There was some skepticism about this, and how it would be defined, who would acquire this wealth and the degree to which it would ensure benefits accruing to women.
Several clear themes emerged from the discussion.
Agreement about gender blindness of CAADP
In discussion, there was general agreement that the CAADP process has been gender blind, but disagreement about whether there is real change underway towards redressing this. CAADP is collaborating with the NEPAD Gender Unit, to see how CAADP can respond to gender issues, and is to launch a ‘gender fund’, but this was criticized as relegating women to a ‘special interest’ category, rather than redirecting agricultural budgets more generally. NEPAD confirmed that there would be opportunities to participate in the gender review process.
Agreement about limited implementation of CAADP
There is also a generalised non-implementation of CAADP because there remain major funding gaps in the NAIPs, which governments hope to fill from private investors and donors. There’s also a big difference between the budget and actual spend. So the challenge is to increase capacity to implement plans, as well as to reorientate the plans themselves.
How to promote sustainable agriculture and agroecological farming?
Promotion of input-intensive production methods biases agricultural programmes against women smallholders. There is hostility towards sustainable and agroecological farming among decision-makers, and CAADP is not helping to reverse this. Women carry an unfair burden of food security, which itself is severely compromised. The IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development) report said its key message is this: small-scale farmers and agroecological production methods are the way forward to solve the food crisis.
How to hold states accountable for investment?
The private sector only invests where there are prospects, and the state has to invest to create conditions that shape investor behavior in ways that benefit women, and don’t displace them. There was some debate about agricultural growth corridors like SAGCOT (Southern Agriculture Corridor) in Tanzania and ProSavana in Mozambique and whether these are excluding women smallholders.
How to influence CAADP?
NEPAD’s role is to coordinate it, but CAADP is driven and determined primarily at country level, and it is up to governments to popularise it. NEPAD acknowledged that it may not be known by farmers, if it is to be responsive, then farmers – especially women farmers – should be at the centre of planning and determining priorities. ActionAid’s suggestion of women smallholder caucuses being organised ahead of CAADP meetings was the most concrete suggestion to address this.