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Tanzania’s women food producers – who are they?

Women farmers in Tanzania. Photo: Alun McDonald / Oxfam
Women farmers in Tanzania

Oxfam’s GROW campaign in Tanzania aims to support women small-scale food producers. But who are these women?

Last year, when we ran the Female Food Hero competition, we asked the nominated women to answer a few questions.

We analysed forms filled in by 4,505 women farmers from 18 regions of Tanzania, in an attempt to get a real picture of who the country’s small-scale producers really are. We found some fascinating statistics:

  • 86% of the small-scale women farmers have primary education or lower (15% of them never went to school). If they are forced off their land or can’t farm, the women’s lack of education means they are unlikely to find new jobs in the so-called booming service industry.
  • 42% of the women were single, widowed or divorced – therefore heading the household and the main earner. Failure to support women farmers will eventually sink these families into extreme poverty and dire need of food aid.
  • Disturbingly, only 5% of the women surveyed own land. 43.7% are farming on land owned by husbands and 34.6% on family-owned land. In a country thought to have masses of bare land, 9% of women farmers are renting or leasing plots from other people.
  • We asked them about their understanding and experience of gender-based violence and abuse. Interestingly, 62.6% said that denying women the right to own land and make decisions on how to use their income is the most abusive form of gender violence.
  • 61.5% – or 2,770 of the women – said they have no savings. Of those who do manage to save, only 5.4% of women farmers use banks. 20.3% save at home, while 12.8% use community groups.

These figures paint a dire picture of the situation for women farmers. So is it worth investing in them?

Another important statistic is that more than 60% of Tanzanian women are farming, and agriculture employs 80% of the entire working population of the country.

“Farming is the most sustainable sector in Tanzania. We should support small scale farmers not only because they provide food for their families and our nation, or because it adds up to our national GDP, but also because there is 80% of employment that we must protect,” says Halima Mdee, a Tanzanian MP and a new ambassador for the GROW campaign.

Women farmers have been the heart and source of stability in the family and the nation. It’s through them that the nation has been fed – but the infrastructure, technology, policies and practices has failed them. That’s why they are at the heart of our campaign.

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Written by Mwanahamisi Salimu

Mwanahamisi Salimu

Mwanahamisi is the Tanzania coordinator of Oxfam's GROW campaign for a fairer food system

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