November 30, 2021

How to Position Women at the Centre of Africa’s Food Systems

The number of hungry people in the world grew by a staggering 161 million people in 2020 to 811 million. More than one third of these people live in Africa. One of the main reasons for this increase is the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the cost of healthy diets and high levels of income inequality.

More concerted efforts are needed to address the problem of food security. Empowering women is often said to be the key. In the past, researchers have looked to their specific disciplines to suggest how women could be empowered to improve food security.

Some have focused on increasing women’s income because women spend more of their income on household nutrition. Others have focused on providing women with nutrition education because women carry the primary responsibility for preparing food.

Globally, experts are beginning to recognise that focusing on one aspect of food overlooks the trade-offs or sacrifices people make. For example, women’s economic empowerment may mean that they spend more time on economic activities, and less time preparing food.

Eliminating hunger will require that research and policies empower women to participate effectively in the food system. Research or policies that focus on one discipline will not suffice to achieve this goal. It’s also essential to understand what gender policy actions can be taken, writes Elizabeth Mkandawire and Melody Mentz-Coetzee for The Conversation.