Beginning in 2019, UN Women joined forces with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations to launch a program called “Contributing to the Empowerment of Women in Africa through Climate-Smart Agriculture.” This initiative aims to equip tens of thousands of female farmers in sub-Saharan Africa with technical agricultural skills, business best practices, and climate-aware farming methods. A recent FAO report indicates that about 66% of working women in this region are involved in agriculture, often under worse conditions than men.
Disebo Makatsa, a South African woman, transformed her mother’s vegetable garden into Dee-Y Trading, a 368-hectare vegetable and dairy farm in the Free State province. She is among the 4,560 South African women who have benefited from this program, which is also supported by Standard Bank. The program has various focal points depending on the country. For instance, in South Africa, the emphasis is on maize and beans, while in Malawi, it’s on groundnuts. In Uganda, the program has educated 1,400 women on aquaculture, and in Nigeria, it has reached 12,500 women, teaching them how to produce shea butter and rice.
Climate-Resilient Techniques and Business Formalization
The training sessions also include methods to combat climate change by employing climate-resilient farming technologies and responsible land management. Ayanda Mvimbi, Women Economic Empowerment Specialist at UN Women’s South Africa Multi-Country Office, stated that the main objective of the program is to economically empower women while enhancing climate resilience and agricultural productivity. Participants also receive advice on legal compliance, aiding them in formalizing their businesses and collaborating with retailers and distributors to meet food safety standards.
Since participating in the program, Makatsa has added 18 new milk cows to her herd and now employs 14 people year-round, with additional hires during harvest time. She has implemented best agricultural practices she learned from the program, such as using drip-irrigation technology to save water, crop rotation to maintain soil nutrients, and intercropping to conserve land and keep the soil fertile. Makatsa has observed a significant improvement in crop quality and yield and aims to expand her business into other agricultural products like pasteurized milk and pre-cut vegetables.