Youth in Soil

The woman of the soil

The woman of the soil

By Sally Kimathi

The Global Soil Week 2019 is over with much excitement of what the conference has achieved in a space of one week. On my return home from the conference, I paid keen attention to the greener landscape along the roadside. The countryside is a great place to relax; away from the air and noise pollution of the city. After such a busy week at the conference, the beautiful environment and the fresh air on the countryside is a timely well-deserved relaxation.

The fifth edition of the Global Soil Week 2019 held at the ICRAF campus in Nairobi is surely not the regular conference, given that the event was on a whole different level with regard to highlighting the plea of the farmer alongside enabling environment.

The fact that Sustainable Development Goals can only be implemented on the ground and not in conference rooms was at the finger prints of every delegates. The paintings were on the wall and the echoes filled the room that all sustainable development goals are local and require local actions and local systems.

The logistic arrangements, planning and the organization of the entire week made the conference stand out. From the Youth-in-Soil side event that gave the youth delegates a platform to air their views, learn about social media reporting and learn more on matters around sustainable agriculture and creating an enabling environment as well as case study discussions in both the technical and high level segments.

It was a participatory conference as the case studies brought reality into the conference room and the welcome dinners that gave delegates an avenue to interact and network. Maybe that is what made the conference stand out or possibly, how issues around the woman of the soil were prioritized.

One of the major highlights of the event was on how to secure land for rural women farmers in a sustainable way. With one of the moderators being a woman and a farmer, Alice Kaudia, I felt at home and the need for women to take ownership.

In opening the conference, Alice shared that her life experiences shaped her interest in agriculture and soil. It took me 10 years back to a time when I used to live with my grandmother. There is nothing I enjoyed most than scheduling for tea picking days as this gave me so much satisfaction, said Alice.

In continuation of her life-experience, she said, I remembered that my grandfather had finalized the land court case and it was time for the sons to inherit their portions and in my community back then, women had no rights to land. The community land used to be re-allocated to the sons including my grandmother’s tea plantation and alas! there was nothing to look forward to during tea picking days.

In most African countries, rural women play a major role in ensuring household food security through small scale food production. However, most rural women lack secure access to the land they plough.


In Burkina Faso, 50% of farmers are women and yet they lack secure access to land while in Kenya, 80% of rural women are farmers and less than 3% own land. In most cases, the land is leased or belongs to the man of the house. More so, access to land is governed by traditional laws which do not allow women to own land. These traditional laws make it difficult for women farmers to invest in sustainable agricultural technologies and further limits them in terms of timely decision making in agriculture, said Alice.

Over the past years, efforts have been directed to sustainably secure land for rural women farmers as highlighted by cases from some African countries such as Burkina Faso and Kenya at the Global Soil Week dimension workshops.

The cases showcase evident-based facts and progress made in ensuring secure land ownership by female farmers especially those in rural areas. Some of the actions highlighted were strengthening and collectivizing women to advocate for their rights, facilitating exposure visits to challenge gender stereotypes and widening the scope to address redistribution of land.

Reminiscing on the experience of being among the selected youth in soil and the many exciting experiences from the conference, I am finally home and with a warm welcome from this incredible rural woman smiles from a distance and her eyes lighting up with joy.

The excitement of seeing her daughter home after one week of learning at the Global Soil Week. In the same vein, I smile back, a smile of hope, having in mind all the promising policy recommendations made at the conference concerning rural women farmers.

This excitement is fueled with the hope that the recommendations will be implemented and this amazing woman of the soil smiling at me right now gets to benefit, amongst a thousand plus other rural women across the African continent.

Anchoring from the famous word of Wangari Mathaai, I found confidence after the conference to say, I am a proud daughter of my native soil, as my mother and father; a youth in soil, and more importantly, a proud woman of the soil.

Youth in Soil

Creating an enabling environment for African smallholder farmers

Creating an enabling environment for African smallholder farmers

A blog post by Dolapo Adeyanju

In the context of Africa, scaling up agricultural production to drive value addition among smallholder farmers requires financing, strong institutional support, compatible infrastructures, improved technology and favorable policies.

For many centuries, African smallholder farming has been characterized by low production with a market which is consistently dominated by the produce-and-sell syndrome. This requires farmers to produce and sell directly to the market without any value addition.

As consumer preference changes, there is now a continuous demand for a market with value-added products where consumers determine the attributes and qualities of the products to purchase. The saddening story is that African smallholder farmers seems to be left behind in the global market as a result of their inability to meet the growing demand for value added products.

The fact remains that smallholder farmers are lagging in the aspect of value-addition and this is evident with the case study of Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa which produce cocoa seeds, export the raw cocoa seed to other countries and import the value-added products like chocolate. This scenario has contributed to African spending more on the products they have the capability to produce and add value to.

Although there are existing strategies to change the smallholder farmers’ traditional mentality of ‘producing and selling’ agricultural produce directly in the raw form. To attempt this, some questions remain: are smallholder farmers in Africa fitting into these strategies; is there an enabling environment under which farmers and these strategies can thrive; who are those benefitting from these strategies and lastly, who are the actors responsible for creating the enabling environment? The questions are continuous and we are still yet to get the right answers that can be implemented on the ground.

Adding value to a product requires thinking beyond the need to produce raw materials toward a creative thinking of producing for the final consumer. In this reality, farmers must be able to think beyond the box and see themselves as innovators. They must be able to produce based on the attributes specified by the final consumers.

To ensure the reality on the ground for farmers, the emerging question is, what can be done to create opportunities for value addition at the local level for smallholder famers?

Based on the discussion from the Global Soil Week 2019,  there is an approach to creating sustainable opportunities for smallholder farmers which can be discussed under two broad headings – partnership and innovation.

A peculiar problem to smallholder farmers is their lack of access to credit facilities. Although there have been many interventions by government and developmental partners to help tackle this problem, most of these interventions have not been sustainable. The implication of this calls for a need to include sustainability into any financial intervention.


Even though this looks difficult to achieve, success stories from across the globe have shown that it is achievable.

To ensure a proper way to create credit facilities and sustainability into financial interventions, participants who attended the finance and market dimension workshop at the Global Soil Week 2019 agreed on the urgency to provide certified seeds/seedlings and other inputs to farmers on credit to boost their production and in return, the farmers can repay with part of their outputs.

One of the participants at the dimension workshop on finance and marketing, Nicodemus Kyalo, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation, Kenya said, “there is a need for inclusive investment which can enable producers to scale up their production. This can be done be exploring partnership models on sustainable production requirement and comprehensive support for producing communities.” He suggested that the access-benefit sharing agreement approach can be adopted to drive agricultural finance for farmers.

On the discussion around demand and supply, Chris Magero from IUCN, Kenya ascertained that having a market for products is not enough. He noted that market accessibility needs to be extended to how demand and supply can be managed in terms of quality, volume and consistency, thereby, ensuring sustainable food production.

He further explained the need to encourage producers to establish nurseries for indigenous products and by-products to ensure consistent and sustainable agricultural production. Farmers can be encouraged to plant alternative crops which are economically profitable as well as processing traditional crops for market consumption.

In conclusion, it is no doubt that the cost implication of value addition in terms of production, processing and marketing is too high for smallholder farmers. Hence, it should not be mis-conceptualized that African farmers are rigid and unwillingly to fit into development strategies such as value addition.

I am certain that if farmers are given the enabling environment to thrive, alongside the support and the willingness of the different stakeholders to address issues around value addition, then, smallholder farmers will have the financial capability to engage in profitable agricultural production and value addition as means to scale-up their livelihood.

Youth in Soil

Women, the Heart of Humanity

Women, the Heart of Humanity

By Nellie Kanyemba Kapatuka

There is no tool for development as effective as empowering women, says a famous quote by Kofi Anan. Women have the potential to do everything they put their heart to and, their contribution to agriculture, more especially in Africa, can never be underestimated.

Growing up, I have always seen women as the frontier of agriculture apart from their usual roles of taking care of their homesteads. Even though this is the case, some African cultures do not allow women to legally own land despite them being actively engaged in agricultural production.

As Mahnaz Afkhami said, women empowerment is intertwined with respect for human rights, there is a point most African cultures are missing when it comes to women land tenure. Women can make so much difference given the right platform and resources.

The recent 2019 Global Soil Week brought out a lot of issues regarding women’s access to land in most African countries. It also brought to light how women can be empowered by giving them access to land for farming as means to contribute to agricultural production in Africa.

Some of the most valuable takeaways from the Global Soil Week included giving women access to land for agricultural production. Success stories from Kenya and Burkina Faso, where women are now able to have land of their own is something worth celebrating. Other countries surely need to borrow a leaf, however there is a need to formulate deliberate policies targeting women to ensure they have an enabling environment for sustainable climate resilient agriculture.

Alice Kaudia, one of the #GSW2019 moderators said, women are an asset in agriculture as they make timely decisions and greatly contribute to farming activities in their households.

“Women are the heart of every household, they make things happen and given proper opportunities, women have proved to be the movers and shakers, hence the need to get them involved in agriculture by empowering them”, she said.


This statement truly reflects how women can add a lot of value and bring a new face in African agricultural production, but again, women empowerment alone is not enough to boost Africans agriculture sector, other different factors like finance and market creation and access also comes to play.

Talking about finance, there is a greater need for governments and partners to put deliberate policies in giving women start up loans for them to grow their agricultural enterprise and operations. This reflects a case study of what One Acre Fund is doing in multiple African countries, providing loans to less privileged farmers. This model can be embraced by most governments in scaling-up finance for women and other smallholder farmers as a way to make hunger a thing of the past in Africa.

Market access just like finance, needs also the government as an enabler of creating environments for sustainable climate smart agriculture, to take up the challenge of finding markets for their local farmers. Through this, governments can also be able to collect revenue thereby boosting their economies.

However, for all of this to happen, there is also a need for people to take up different roles in managing and conserving the environment including the soil, knowing that without healthy soils, no agricultural production can happen.

Statistics have shown that over 24 billion tons of top soils are lost annually across the world due to degradation and siltation caused by human activities.

Soils are the basis of life and are crucial in every aspect of humanity, this is the whole reason why everyone should be taken on board to make sure it is properly conserved and managed.

Youth in Soil

Becoming an Enthusiastic Female Farmer

Becoming an Enthusiastic Female Farmer

A blog post by Dolapo Adeyanju

Opinions and discouragement from my family and friends that women cannot be a successful farmer almost make me re-think if I should consider a career in agriculture or opt for the trending course.  Amid mixed opinions and doubts, I settled for a course in agricultural economics and extension.

In my first class for a practical crop production course named AEE 202, bright grins covered my face with thoughts of how I cannot wait for a learning experience on the school farm, one of the biggest farms in Nigeria.

Being an agricultural and extension student, some of my classes on agricultural extension and women in agriculture were discouraging but my decision remains firm to make a career out of farming. The negative stories of women suffering in agriculture were regular advice from close families and friends, but my decision remains firm.

The unpalatable farm experiences

It’s a new dawn to go to the farm for my AEE 202 course and the excitement, expectations and tension were high. In my green laboratory coat and rugged over-sized black rain boot from my father, I head straight to the farm, encouraging myself with the African golden words – “This is it, oh blessed proud daughter of her father.”

It was the very first farm visit for me and after minutes of driving the bus suddenly stopped in the middle of the bush with my heart skipping like It was going to stop. The car could not move and thus, a means to walk to the farm was the next suggestion from the lecturer. In the middle of the complaints, I alighted from the bus with a bag packed with food, snacks and a water bottle.

Walking to the farm through the poor road linkage – a shattered dream from erosion, I can only compliment myself with my 2 litres of water. In my thoughts, I asked, how do people get to their farms using the unpalatable road.



The walk was not a sweet one but finally we got to the farm and here comes the excitement to get down to work and test my decision to become a farmer. Accompanied by farmers who are old men, we were showed around the farm with stories of their farming experience. The challenges learned in class resonated with the farmer’s stories, listing from poor road network, lack of access to credit, lack of sufficient extension services and high transaction cost.

In my curiosity, I asked about the women in agriculture and the question was a big slap, knock and blow altogether. The explanation given was the assertion that women belong to the kitchen and are meant to help their husbands on the farm but not allowed to own farmlands as all the lands belong to men. I asked in awe of curiosity if women work while the men spend the proceeds and it was a disappointing truth that the farmers nodded in agreement to this arrangement.

The practical farm work was concluded, and the students departed from the farm but the thoughts and statements from the farm keeps bothering my mind. To relieve myself of the experience, I concluded that the world, particularly Africa, must move away from its restrictive tradition holding women and young people back from becoming a farmer. To make a difference, I re-engineered my interest and commitment to study agriculture and change the status-quo.

Women land ownership

Upon graduation from the university some years back, I am excited today to have seen, read and heard about numbers of successful female farmers. Women who broke social and traditional rules to achieve their goals in the agricultural sector. One such success story from Africa is of Alice Kaudia, a Kenyan born woman who against all odds became a successful farmer.

In sharing her personal experience during the opening first day of Global Soil Week 2019, Alice, said that female farmers are faced with numerous challenges which are evident in most African countries. She further explained that women do not have the right to own land due to the current land transfer structures.

Land ownership in most African countries is by inheritance and the lands are transferred to male children. Although in countries where constitutionally, a specified hectare of lands is to be transferred to women, the laws are violated and ignored.


Violet Shivutse, a women leader from Shibuye Community Health Worker Project in Kakamega County of Kenya, mentioned during the conference that women are vulnerable in accessing land. She reiterated that few women have the resources to purchase or acquire land on lease. Hence, leaving many women who are so enthusiastic about farming to end up as mere farm workers.

Violet explained that aside access to land, women’s productivity is low as compared to men because of lack of access to finance, lack of access to other farm resources, multi-tasking and engagement in numerous activities such as domestic and other marital obligations. The phrase resonates with different findings and studies that women provide most of the labor used on the farm.

Re-engineering land accessibility for women

To address the identified challenges and change the societal norms, the questions were evidently answered during the first day of the Global Soil Week 2019 with recommendations as follows:

Firstly, women should be recognized as an important asset that can drive sustainable agricultural development which will change the general perception that women should not own land. In her remarks, Alice Kaudia, an eco-entrepreneur and a co-facilitator for the conference, said that access to land will help to facilitate timely decision making among women and invariably lead to increased productivity and better livelihood.

Secondly, the approach adopted by the Shibuye Community Health Workers is a brilliant approach that can be adopted to increase land access by women as well as provision of financial assistance to women through a community resilient fund to enable them to acquire land on lease and acquire resources required for farming.

As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day, but the reality remains that the lands in Rome were not left untapped. It is, therefore, important that community collective actions will help to drive women in agriculture and to their promise land to become a successful farmers.

I am a woman, I am energetic, I am a farmer and I will continue to lend my voice to raise more female farmers.

Youth in Soil

Enabling environment for sustainable land use and management

Enabling environment for sustainable land use and management

By Nellie Kanyemba Kapatuka

For a long time, African countries have been heavily affected by effects of climate change ranging from soil erosion, degradation and drought among many others. Implementation of deliberate measures set aside by government and developmental partners still seem not to fully address such issues causing fear and anxiety among people especially the most rural communities in Africa.The workshop on land management at the Global Soil Week 2019 which brought over 200 participants across the globe, revealed existing gaps in the current initiatives to conserve and protect land to create an enabling environments for sustainable climate resilient agriculture on African continent.

In one of the dimension workshop on local governance, successful cases were analyzed and reviewed. In Malawi, Chia lagoon which lies on Lake Malawi was on the verge of destruction as it was heavily silted due to water run-off. Sharing the story, Total Land Care Malawi Managing Director Zwide Jere explained how challenging it was to change the mindset of communities around the lagoon into realizing their roles in redeeming it. “Farming activities happening upstream had deadly impacts on the downstream communities who heavily relies on fishing for livelihood”, said Zuze, one of the expert from the workshop. It was discussed that involvement of both up and down stream water users almost yielded nothing as they both did not realize how beneficial the water body is to them both until the process restructured to involve key local structures in the implementation process.

In Kenya, a case study was cited that 80% of women are engaged in farming activities, leading to implementing projects that aimed at enhancing food security and market access for land constrained women farmers. This implementation of this project has successfully empowered women to have access to their own farmland. In a quest to create an enabling environment for sustainable agricultural production and climate resilient agriculture, the project which 850 women farmers, who were empowered to steer all the agricultural processes in their communities.


One Acre Fund on the other hand, working in countries like Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia and Zambia among others, is bailing out farmers by providing financial assistance in form of loans for farmers to easily access farming inputs. This project however stirred some debate among the workshop participants as to whether farmers in Africa really need money or capacity building for them to have en enabling environment for their agricultural production. However, Daniel Omondi from the One Acre Fund said all they want is to improve accessibility and applicability of rural extension services for small holder farmers. He added that with time, they expect the farmers to develop resistance and become financially independent.
“We set a fixed time frame where a farmer can be a beneficiary of these loans to make sure that we enhance the spirit of self-reliance so they can be financially independence”, said Omondi.

The workshop draws conclusion with valuable lessons such as good working collaboration between government and non-governmental organizations, women involvement in matters that affect them by overcoming gender stereotypes and changing people’s mindset towards non-conventional agricultural practices. The discussions from the different dimensions from the Global Soil Week 2019 including land governance, local governance, extension services and finance and market leaves no doubt that delegates will go back with refreshed minds and a clear vision on how to help farmers in Africa have an enabling environment for sustainable climate resilient agriculture.