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Women: The Backbone and Future of Agriculture in Sierra Leone

Written by Guest Blogger: Anderson Williams- SGUW Intern

It is evident that Agriculture is the Backbone of the economy of Sierra Leone, accounting for 60% of the Country’s GDP and providing livelihoods for the majority of the population. Yet, the critical role played by women in this sector is often overlooked and undervalued.

Across Sierra Leone, women are the primary producers of the country’s staple crops like rice, cassava, and vegetables. They make up around 60% of the Agriculture sector workforce, responsible for everything from tilling the land and planting seeds to harvesting, processing, and selling the crops.

Despite their efforts and essential contributions, women farmers in Sierra Leone face significant structural barriers and inequalities.  Access to land, land ownership, inheritance traditions, credit, and other agricultural inputs and resources are all heavily skewed towards men.

Traditional cultural norms and gender discrimination limit women’s ability to make autonomous decisions about farming and limit their participation in agricultural cooperatives and value chains.

The impacts of the ‘oppurtunity’ gender gap in agriculture are profound. Studies have shown that closing the gap and empowering female farmers could increase agricultural productivity in Sierra Leone by as much as 10-20%. This would have ripple effects on household food security, incomes, social stability, and broader economic and rural development.

Fortunately, there are promising efforts underway to support and empower Sierra Leonean women in agriculture. Government programs, NGOs, and Community- Based organizations such as SGUW are working to improve women’s access to land, agricultural training, technology and financing.

For example, the Smallholder Commercialization program, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, has helped establish over 1,000 farmer-based organizations across Sierra Leone- many of them led by women.

These groups provide a platform for female farmers to access inputs, share knowledge, and collectively market their crops for higher prices.

Interventions like these, combined with policies to protect women’s land rights and promote gender equality, can go a long way in unleashing the full potential of Sierra Leone’s women in the agriculture sector. By recognizing and supporting their crucial role, we can build a more productive, equitable and sustainable food system in the country.

Women maybe the backbone of Sierra Leone’s agriculture, but their contributions have long been undervalued and overlooked. It’s time to change that narrative and empower female farmers as the driving force behind the country’s agricultural transformation.


Written by: ANDERSON WILLIAMS

SGUW Intern, Summer, 2024

Student at the Institute of Gender Research and Documentation (INGRADOC) at the University of Sierra Leone- FBC Honors 11

 

 

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