The Director of Women Farmers, Land and Agricultural Trust (WFLAT), Phides Mazhawidza, said land utilisation patterns among newly resettled female farmers were very poor - prompting the establishment of the organisation and its programmes.
“We work together with the women and provide support networks to ensure that they have access to resources and skills training and development,” she said in a recent interview. “Because they lack support networks to help them effectively utilise the land and market their produce, we try to create synergies between female farmers and other organisations, government and private partners to help the farmers get the best out of their land.”
As part of capacity building for women intending to venture into dairy farming, the organisation had facilitated a training workshop for women drawn from all around the country. In partnership with Nestle Zimbabwe, the three-phase training aimed at increasing the skills and expertise to enable women to venture into dairy farming as a business.
The women attended a four day workshop in Harare and will receive follow-up training in their respective provinces. “They will put into practice what they have learnt and then they will get theoretical expertise again in the last phase of the training,” she said.
The organisation has established centres around the country where the women farmers can meet every month to discuss their challenges and find practical solutions and interventions.
“We promote the idea that they should share knowledge and ideas. We set up clusters which helped female tobacco farmers register themselves and get growers cards so that they do not have a problem when they are selling their tobacco. What we want is to encourage the women to conduct themselves as professional farmers and treat farming as business,” Mazhawidza added.
The Gender Links 2013 Barometer on Zimbabwe reported that although Zimbabwe’s economic framework calls for women’s participation in key sectors of the economy, there are no gender responsive policies in sectors such as agriculture and mining.
Gender inequality and limited access to credit, healthcare and education posed a number of challenges for rural women and the global food and economic crisis and climate change has worsened the situation.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that if women farmers, who constitute 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, had the same access as men to agricultural resources, production of food would greatly increase.
“Access to resources for female farmers in developing countries had the potential to increase production by 20-30 per cent, and potentially reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people,” said the FAO.
Formed in 2006, WFLAT is national non-profit membership organisation that caters for women farmers in two broad categories: women farming with their husbands as managers and running the farm form part of the organisation, and single women farmers, divorced, widowed or those that have never married.
The Trust is involved in promoting wider information and knowledge sharing on access to farming inputs, produce marketing, access to credit finance and contract farming. “We are hoping for a society where women have equitable access to land and agricultural resources, and the use the land effectively for the development of the country,” said Mazhawidza.