By Frédéric Baudron, System Agronomist, CIMMYT
The goals of the Farm Power and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (FACASI) project are to address the issue of declining farm power in eastern and southern Africa, and reduce the labor burden that comes with low farm mechanization, by promoting small-scale mechanization based on two-wheel tractors. Farm power is particularly scarce for female-headed households (FHHs), who have limited access to human labor and often don’t own (or are culturally forbidden to operate) draft animals. FHHs are often the last households to access land preparation services, which leads to lower yields. Even in households headed by men, women supply most of the farm labor and perform highly labor-intensive tasks, such as weeding, threshing, shelling or transport of inputs and agricultural commodities to and from the market by head-loading.
Research on maize improvement by international agricultural research centers and partners in SSA is increasing harvests in the region and enhancing farmers’ lives.
In Nigeria, farmers say that improved varieties are addressing constraints such as the parasitic weed Striga, drought, poor soil fertility and pests and diseases that limit productivity, reduce yield and make farming unattractive. For farmer Hajiya Hafsatu Riruwai the encounter with improved maize technologies last year brought a profound change to her life.
Globally, about one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. In developed countries, much of that loss is the result of consumers throwing away millions of tons of edible food each year. But in the developing world, most loss occurs either in the field before a crop is harvested, during harvest and handling or afterwards in storage.
Kenyan women are crucial to the country’s agricultural economy, contributing 54 percent of agricultural labor-hours. Widowhood, reduced marriage rates and labor migration have led to female-headed households (FHHs) becoming significantly more common in Africa. A recent study conducted in Kenya also shows that FHHs are twice as likely as their male counterparts to suffer chronic food insecurity.