What’s new on Soil Health and Gender at the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit 2024?

May 8th 2024

LEG4DEV PhD researcher Timalizge Munthali attended the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit’s session on Soil Health and Gender. Discussions at the event focused on the importance of womens’ land ownership and the key roles women farmers can play in informing and implementing policy.

Women sorting out maize seed at the Mgom’mera Seed Company warehouse in Lilongwe, Malawi” by CIMMYT/Kipenz Films is licensed under  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Deed.

Although women smallholders play key roles in maintaining soil health, they are extremely under-represented as land owners. Women in Kenya and many other countries across East and Southern Africa face significant discrimination when it comes to ownership and control of land.

The LEG4DEV research project considers that legumes can represent a strategic entry point for gender transformative agroecological intensification. To scale up legume production and consumption for improved nutrition, livelihoods and food security, land is one of the most important resources.

At the session the speakers and panellists discussed: ‘How can we change the lives of Women Farmers in Africa?’

Some of Tima’s key takeaways from the discussions at the session include:

  • The importance of access to the policy making table by representatives of women smallholders.
  • Mainstreaming issues of gender access and rights in the land sector is necessary at all levels, from the national policy level to the registry offices of the Ministries responsible for lands, housing, and urban development.
  • The need to pilot land leasing guidelines whose development has been supported by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, so that women can easily access freehold title deeds or access communal land.
  • The diverse range of solutions needed to address land ownership issues. Potential solutions include collective organizing, engagement with women’s groups, raising awareness of why women need land rights which includes the right to use, transfer, lease, inherit or own their land, and the need for male champions for women’s empowerment who acknowledge that women need to access, control and use land.
  • Fostering of community sensitization forums on the importance of women in agriculture.

While legumes may be considered women’s crops of importance for household nutrition and female income, this can change depending on the level of income generated from different legumes. In some instances, when legumes become generators of significant income for the household, the income can be co-opted by male members of the household thereby shifting the legume from being a womens’ crop. 

The scaling of legumes and associated benefits can be gender-transformative if women can retain control (including through more equitable joint-decision making in the household) of income generated from legume scaling.

To help ensure that legume scaling can be gender transformative, researchers such as Tima working on the LEG4DEV project are investigating the evidence underpinning the roles that gender can play in scaling legume production for food security, nutrition and sustainable livelihoods in Eastern and Southern Africa.