ONE might be surprised to hear a call for more women inclusion in Tanzanian agricultural sector, especially when reports shows that by last year, 70-75 percent of the entire labour force in the sector was occupied by women, and that 95 percent of rural women are doing farming.
Truth be told, however, that still women lags behind when it comes to reaping the sweats of their work on the field.
The 2014 World Bank’s report revealed a rather bleak picture, that women accounted for 35.5 percent of Tanzania’s human capital wealth and men 64.5 percent.
The above mentioned two scenarios are contradicting at best and discouraging at worst. But anyone with a first-hand experience of African social economic pattern, specifically at the household level, will agree with the mentioned findings.
Speaking of a typical African family is speaking of a social unit with a conservative form of an agreement that a man is a natural breadwinner or unelected provider of a family. He oversees all the affairs of a family and this includes a woman (wife). All the basic and luxury needs like; food, clothes, shelter, education and health are met or at least supposed to be catered for by the head of a family.
On the other hand, women’s role in a family has largely remained at taking care of family chores and if is to provide help then she will be required to take care of a farm dedicated for family food and little incidentals. No one teaches anyone about this division of labour, all are born seeing them and so it becomes part of everyone’s second nature.
Many rural households are blessed with soil that can grow multiple crops. So it is not uncommon finding a household with farms for maize, beans, banana and ground nuts for food at home, and other farms of tea and coffee, purely kept as cash-cows. Other households in southern highlands for instance, grows rice, cassava, potatoes and maize for food purposes while designating special areas for cocoa which again serves as commercial entities.
Now, the reigning purpose here is to maintain man’s status quo in the family, even at the expense of killing women potentials. By taking control of “lucrative” crops not only dissuades women from fully engagement, an arrangement hinders the sector from realizing its full potential as women are no longer incentivized to put all their creative and innovative ideas just as we have seen them propelling other sectors.
The 2015 report by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that agriculture’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product has declined to 29 percent from 30 percent in 2007, giving way for other sectors like services and manufacturing to take more dominance in the economy. These developments are far from being labelled as worse because they ensure local economy’s vibrancy still. But it is a no brainer that, any expansion in agricultural sector would easily be translated into individual well-being than any sector in the country.
At this juncture, it is worth to note that until the society graduates from ancient thinking that paints women as mere consumers and not a labour force that is currently in a “forced reserve”, tangible progress may not be achieved or take long time to arrive than not.
The fact that countries like Canada, United States, India and Brazil are leading in agricultural production, tells a lot of this relationship with their great efforts to include of women in the country’s economy which include agriculture as well.
To drum up support for women inclusion is not to be expedient and sound politically correct, nor is it to be blind on a handful achievement of several initiatives taken by several change agents, it is rather to realize the potential that lies just within our reach that stayed unutilized for decades and the pace of change are more than slow and remind everybody in field not to abdicate his responsibility.