The World Bank recently released an interesting book titled Agriculture in Africa: Telling Myths from Facts. It covers a wide range of topics from smallholder land access, post-harvest losses, financing of agricultural inputs, agricultural labour productivity and women’s work in agriculture amongst others.

Having recently written an article on women’s contribution to the South African agricultural sector, I was quickly drawn in on the chapter that dealt with that subject. The book puts women’s share of labour in crop production at an average of 40%, with variations across countries. It is, however, worth noting is that the data does not cover the entire continent, it covers namely: Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. With that said, the countries cover a wide array of the continent’s farming zones.

Across the aforementioned countries, the highest share of women’s contribution to agricultural labour is 56% in Uganda, followed by 52% in both Tanzania and Malawi with the lowest being 24% in Niger.

The South African story does not feature in the book, but I will say a few words not only because it is International Women’s Day, but for the simple reason that we need diversity in all key positions of the agricultural sector. Crucially, as the sector continues to be viewed as an epicentre of growth and development in South Africa, it is important that diversity is prioritised along with these economic-growth ambitions.

In leadership roles, there has been progress in the past few years in increasing the number of women in management positions within the sector. Several national agricultural associations such as Fruit SA, AFASA, PMA Southern Africa, Grain SA’s farmer development programme and Agbiz Grain, amongst others, have prominent women at the helm.

With regard to the national labour market, women remain in the minority as far as the agricultural sector employment figures are concerned, making up a third of total employment in the sector, according to data from Statistics South Africa, which covers the past ten years.

The National Development Plan suggests that agriculture has the potential to create 1-million jobs by 2030. The view on whether this will be an attainable target is debatable, but the most important issue would be to explore ways of tackling gender disparities in these potential jobs so as to improve the proportion of women in the agricultural labour market in the next few years.

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