CSD seminar on Is ‘Pro-Poor Agricultural Growth’ Inclusive? Gender Perspectives on Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa

Event Summary
Is ‘Pro-Poor Agricultural Growth’ Inclusive? Gender Perspectives on Agriculture and Rural Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa

Speaker: Dr Agnes Andersson, Department of Geography, University of Lund
Date: 19 November 2013

Summarised by Professor Sylvia Chant

Taking something of a departure from the conventionally urban-dedicated focus in the Cities, Space and Development Seminar Series, but connected in vital ways with rural-urban dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa, Dr Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Geography at the University of Lund, Sweden, gave us some important gendered insights into agricultural and rural livelihoods in the region with her talk entitled: ‘Is pro-poor agricultural growth inclusive?’.  This drew on her interdisciplinary work with the ‘Afrint group’, of which she has been team leader since 2010, comprising researchers from Lund and nine sub-Saharan African countries, which has documented transitions in rural livelihoods in around 4000 households from 2002.

The bid to ‘re-agrarianise’ growth and poverty reduction in sub-Saharan Africa post 2000, and especially since the Maputo Declaration of 2003, has been driven not only by general concerns about ‘runaway’ urbanisation in the region, but by more specific anxieties around growing youth unemployment in African cities, and crises of urban food security in a context in which around 20% of African imports consist of foodstuffs  Given that women are only 15% of rural landholders in SSA, knowing how the drive to revitalise rural economies have affected women and men is a critical part of the analytical jigsaw in which the historic ‘male bias’ in rural-urban migration is changing.

Consonant with the work of Dr Cecilia Tacoli at IIED, that women are increasingly forming part of rural-urban migration streams in SSA, appears to relate strongly to the fact that despite recent policy initiatives, women remain disadvantaged in the rural sector, even where there are minimal differences in the general incomes of male and female-headed households, and where landholding is matrilineal (as it is in some parts of  Malawi).  Rural decision-making, production and access to policy support, remain a male preserve, and more rural female-headed households than male-headed households have to rely on non-farm income in order to subsist.  ‘Off-farm’ diversification of livelihood strategies may not necessarily in themselves ‘empower’ women, but in encouraging new avenues to income-generation, and eventual migration to urban areas might be important steps on the route to shaping the social,economic and demographic character of African cities, and the balance between rural and urban development more generally.