The Future of African Agriculture and Gender Equity

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged fellow members of The Elders Council to take greater action to empower women in agriculture during a panel at the Africa Green Revolution (AGRF) Summit. 

During the panel, which focused on the status of food systems in Africa, along with the critical urgency of improving their resilience, Madam Sirleaf spoke alongside H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Dr. Jakaya M. Kikwete, Former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. John K. A. Kufuor, Former President of Ghana, and H.E. Lionel Zinsou, Former Prime Minister of Benin. 

Strong African leadership, they said, will be critical for transforming the sector and dismantling stereotypes in farming in the coming years. Madam Sirleaf said that there has been good progress in women’s leadership on the continent, 

“but if we look at the current pace, we will not achieve the kind of gender equity that we seek.”

Within agriculture, Madam Sirleaf noted that farming systems in countries like Liberia consist largely of women — sometimes up to 80%. While farmers have proven themselves to be very resilient after managing the devastating effects of the 2014 Ebola outbreak and the COVID-19 pandemic, more must be done to empower women farmers and marketeers.

There is great potential for regional cooperation to address food security issues, Madam Sirleaf said. By improving free movement across borders, producing surpluses in one country could help supplement shortages in others. Madam Sirleaf said that “continual effort” will be needed to integrate data and knowledge to solve food insecurity and deficits. 

Madam Sirleaf closed by encouraging men to recognize and actively promote women. She invited the male participants at the event

“to join in the effort of being able to stand up for women, to commit themselves to promote women in whatever positions or whatever areas of activity in which they’re involved, to ensure that gender equity achieves much more in the coming decade.”

Watch the full recording of the event here. Madam Sirleaf begins speaking at 28:10.

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