chapter  5
Food crises: The impact on African women and children
ByMEREDETH TURSHEN
Pages 14

The long trajectory of Africa’s food crises begins with a mother’s daily struggle to feed her family and ends in the financial centers in London and New York. Along the way food is transformed into a commodity and commodities lose their physical reality as traders gamble on their future value. The ability of a woman to prepare a simple bowl of porridge for her child each day is constrained by decisions she cannot affect, decisions taken by financiers who control international markets and trade. In agriculture-based countries in Africa, agriculture makes up about a third of overall economic growth. Sub-Saharan African countries account for 89 percent of the global total of rural populations in agriculture-based countries, and more than half of sub-Saharan Africans are poor people living in rural areas. The World Bank estimates that agricultural development is twice as effective at reducing poverty as other sources of growth (World Bank, 2008). The hope is that agricultural development will lift African countries out of poverty as it did for some Asian countries. Women produce 80 percent of the food in sub-Saharan Africa and constitute 75 percent of the labor force in agriculture, yet they own just 1 percent of the land, receive only 7 percent of agricultural extension services and are beneficiaries of less than 10 percent of the credit given to small-scale farmers. Women have no representation in policy formulation, program development or budgetary planning; in other words they have no say when decisions are made about their work and their life.