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Women Unsung Heroes of Rural Agriculture Resilience

In scorching heat, Ellen Kacha inspects her almost failed maize crop, which now looks promising after a rare occurrence this season — normal rainfall for at least two weeks.

Droughts have been a common feature in recent years. This El Nino-induced phenomenon that is sweeping across southern Africa this year seems to have worsened smallholders’ problems. Ms Kacha’s smallholding is no exception.

“The drought spell this year is worse as compared to the last three seasons. Regardless of conservation technologies that I have adopted, I have not been spared,” says the 56-year-old farmer of Pemba district. Ms Kacha has been practising conservation agriculture since 2003.

Ms Kacha says she learnt resilient agricultural technologies the hard way, “providing for children as a single mother for 23 years. At that time, my soils had become completely useless due to erosion, so I continued seeking for better methods to sustain my family and my introduction to conservation farming was timely.”

According to available statistics, 78 percent of women in Zambia engage in agriculture, contributing a significant percentage to the country’s agricultural output. This output supports 70 percent of the country’s 13 million plus population.

However, women remain marginalised in terms of access to credit and, most importantly, land. While the former is blamed on financial exclusion, the latter is a product of patriarchal customary land ownership where women are largely excluded from owning land except through their husbands.


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