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Female farmers complain lack of access to land, finance

June 16, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

Female farmers in Sierra Leone have complained that lack of access to land, finance and market for their agricultural products have hindered their progress in the agribusiness.

They raised the concern yesterday during a one day dialogue on women in agribusiness organised by UN Women at Hill Valley Hotel in Freetown.

President of the Koinadugu women’s vegetable growers, Haja Sundu Marah, said they have difficulty in accessing market for their agricultural products, adding that they produce lots of vegetables, but were not realizing much from their trade.

She mentioned onions as one of the agricultural products needed most in the market as at now, but noted that most farmers hadn’t access to finance to purchase huge quantity of onion seeds to farm.

Another female farmer, Isatu Sesay from Bo district, expressed similar constraints, stating that they could not realise much profit as a result of the constrains they were faced with.

 “There is a problem also with the high cost of fertilizers which has added burden on us. We want UN Women to hire experts that would train us on the use of organic manure for our crops, so that we could reduce the cost of purchasing fertilizers,” she said.

Kaday Zorokon from Bo district cited late supply of seeds as one of the challenges that female farmers faced, noting that cutting of trees and burning of charcoal have made many swamps to dry up.

Female farmers from some other districts also cited politics as another factor that has hindered their progress in agribusiness, noting that a farmer without political affiliation would never be supported.

Peace and Security Advisor at UN Women, Jebbeh Forster, said there was hope for women farmers in Sierra Leone, adding that they invited them from across the country to look at problems that hinder them from making progress in agriculture.

“Studies have revealed that 80% of farmers in Africa are women. In Sierra Leone, 70% of farmers are women. This tells us that women are very important in agriculture but they are not getting the required benefits from agriculture. Women must be leaders in agriculture and that’s UN Women’s aim,” she said.

She said most women were not interested in things that happen around them, hence the reason they were not realising much from the things they do.

“Because of that, we decided to conduct transformative leadership training for women in agriculture,” she said.

Madam Forster said women must take agriculture as business in order to realize profit, adding that they should have a business plan, skills, and knowledge needed to progress in agriculture.

“Sierra Leone used to export vegetables but the vegetables from Sierra Leone are no longer meeting the Europe market standards, hence, they were banned. Much is not done to support women in agriculture as most of them have been complaining about lack of access to land, finance, market and information,” she said.

Baindu Massaquoi, Programmes Specialist at UN Women, said their work involves capacity building for women in order to enhance their capability to take leadership and decision making positions in society, adding that women were also given technical support that would enable them to contest for elective positions in a male dominated society.

“We give women technical support to benefit from their agricultural activities. We also work closely with the Sierra Leone Police to ensure that violence against women is curtailed, and to prevent early child marriage. We even do peace and security programmes in order to avert the re-occurrence of the war,” she said.

David E. Lahai, another UN Women’s Programmes Specialist, said the training was an interactive session aimed at knowing the challenges women face in agriculture and to see how they could find solutions to those problems.

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