Dr Hana Morsy, the director of the Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department at the African Development Bank talks about…

Ethiopia

Women in agric need more financial support

Dr Hana Morsy, the director of the Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department at the African Development Bank talks about her very positive and inspiring upbringing in one of her articles.

She says she grew up believing that one’s view of life was more important than societal perceptions.

Dr Morsy had a strong conviction that she could accomplish anything if she believed in herself and that sexism was not insurmountable.

It is probably that perception which convinced her to believe that “the gender gap in access to financial services is driven by women entrepreneurs’ own self-perception.”

 “Such perception leaves many African women on the fringes of the financial sector — unable to save, borrow, or build capital,” she opined.

Eager to throw her assertions into the public domain, Dr Morsy penned an article “Access to Finance: Why Aren’t Women Leaning In?” in which she boldly declared that women were self-selecting out of the African credit market.

She argued that “women entrepreneurs fail even to apply for loans because of such factors as low financial literacy, risk aversion, and fear of failure.”

While her views may elicit different views from women themselves based on either perceptions or personal experiences, what is clear and documented is that worldwide, women’s access to finance is disproportionately low.

 Globally, women still struggle to access funding than their male counterparts, and this often has extremely negative consequences on business growth, employment, and the economy in general.

It is for that reason that multitudes of women welcomed the launch of the Government-owned Agriculture Finance Corporation Holdings to finance farming activities across the full range, from communal land holders to large commercial farmers.

The new Agricultural Finance Corporation Holdings, which includes the new Land and Development Bank was launched by President Mnangagwa last week to boost and formalise finance for farmers.

AFC was launched following the restructuring of Agribank and comprises four subsidiaries: the AFC Commercial Bank, the AFC Land and Development Bank, AFC Insurance and AFC Leasing Company.

In launching the bank, President Mnangagwa emphasised that there was now need to focus on increased productivity, profitability and sustainability, following the successful implementation of the land reform, which is now irreversible.

He pointed out that the launch of the finance company was part of efforts to improve the operations of the agricultural sector and align its transformation to the National Development Strategy 1 and Vision 2030.

 The launch is a welcome move which has since been embraced by various sectors in the economy who expect the economy to thrive, as more farmers would now be able to access money to support farming   activities.

Among the lot,would be a good percentage of women who will also be able to access money to finance farming activities on the land they acquired through the land reform programme.

Like their counterparts, it had become a Herculean task to get funding from commercial banks to secure funding for farming activities, a development that was now hampering productivity on many farms.

Unlike Dr Morsy’s assertions, women in farming were not self-selecting themselves from accessing funding, but the stringent conditions from banks were making it difficult for farmers to access funding.

Good as this might appear, the boost in farming activities will not be realised overnight, but the nation is now on a positive trajectory to ensure that Zimbabwe retains its bread basket status in the region.

However good the funding initiative might be, the trajectory towards productivity and growth would not be complete without women’s participation.

Women’s access to land has remained a grey area, which still needs to be addressed if the nation is to affirm women’s involvement in economic empowerment.

There is still need to address the historical imbalance whereby the majority of women do not own land, yet they have been custodians of land since time immemorial.

 A study by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that, like in other developing countries, women in Zimbabwe do most of the agricultural work and tend to be more dependent on farming.

Of the women populace in Zimbabwe, approximately 80 percent of them live in communal areas, where they constitute 61 percent of the farmers.

Most are unpaid family workers and spend an average of 16 hours a day tending fields.

Over half are the head of the household, where most of their incomes are hinged on production on their pieces of land.

According to FAO, women farmers are the pillars of African agriculture, in Zimbabwe included.

Over two thirds of women in Africa are employed in the agricultural sector and produce nearly 90 percent of food on the continent.

 They are generally responsible for growing, selling, buying and preparing food for their families.

When the fast track land reform exercise started, many people expected the rural woman to get the bulk of the land, considering the role they had always played in food production and farming, but that did not happen.

It was actually a clique of women who enjoy space and platforms in academic, economic and the political arena, who got the major share of the cake, while the majority of rural folk had to be content with what they got.

Although the Government set aside a quota for women, it has not been easy for women to access the same land because of the prevalence of discriminatory custom and traditional practices, which prevent women from inheriting or acquiring ownership of land and other property, as well as accessing credit facilities and community services.

So in fact, women do not own the land they toil and till on. Only 20 percent of women now own land, which they acquired under the land reform programme.

Many may argue that the country has laws outlawing discrimination on the basis of gender, while the constitution states that every Zimbabwean has the right to acquire, hold, occupy, use, transfer, lease or dispose of all forms of property, either individually, or in association with others.

 But Zimbabwe is still largely a patriarchal society, a factor that is undermining women’s rights to land and other resources.

The nation takes comfort in the gender equality legislations that seek to ensure gender equity in economic matters.

It is the same legal instruments and pieces of legislation that the Government will now need to activate to ensure that women do not continue to be economically disenfranchised, but should now be active partners in the economy.

 

Worku Gebre
Journaliste