Supporting Female Farming Cooperatives: The Smart Choice for the African Development Bank
May 26, 2023


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) faces significant challenges in agricultural productivity, with cereal yields far below the global average. Despite improvements in other regions, absolute poverty has increased in SSA over the past three decades. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted weaknesses in the region's food security system, exacerbated by pre-existing structural issues. This paper emphasizes the importance of empowering women in agriculture, as they constitute a substantial portion of the agricultural labor force in SSA and play a vital role in food production. However, women encounter gender-specific constraints in addition to systemic challenges. Recognizing these issues, the paper proposes that the African Development Bank (AfDB) prioritize female-centric agricultural cooperatives in its strategy, aiming to improve agricultural productivity, empower women, and achieve Sustainable Development Goals. While some multilateral and bilateral initiatives exist, a comprehensive continent-wide program is lacking. The AfDB's agro-industrial strategy, Feed Africa, provides an opportunity to support farming cooperatives, with a specific focus on female empowerment. Despite some existing investments in female farming cooperatives, the AfDB should allocate more resources to help them realize their full potential. The paper highlights the need to bridge the investment gap between large-scale projects and cooperative support, emphasizing the importance of a strategic vision beyond mere productivity improvement and calling for concerted efforts to improve gender equality and enhance agricultural productivity through female-centric cooperatives in Africa.