In Tanzania, old sexist traditions hinder women from participating in coffee cultivation. As in most parts of Africa, traditions in Tanzania often give women access to land either through their sons, fathers, brothers, husbands or other men who are in charge of the land. “There is a big challenge in that field of inheritance. A woman can’t inherit land from her father. Even if she gets married and loses her spouse, the one to inherit land will be her son,” said Doreen Makundi, the Secretary of the Mwika North-East Agricultural Market Co-operative Society, during an International Management Systems (IMS) training in Moshi.
This archaic tradition not only makes women vulnerable, it also decreases agricultural productivity, particularly in coffee farming where women account for almost 80 percent of the workforce. When women lose their connection to male relatives, either through death, divorce or migration, they lose their lands and homes as documents of ownership are often named after their fathers, husbands, or sons.
Tanzania’s economy is heavily reliant on agriculture, a sector that accounts for about 85 percent of its exports. Coffee farming employs around 450,000 families and the crop is the second-highest valued agricultural export after tobacco. But in recent years, coffee earnings have declined due to decreased yield caused by aged trees, poor farming practices, lack of agro-inputs and infrastructure, and decreased women participation. Recent statistics from Tanzania Coffee Board showed coffee export for the 2019/2020 season was estimated at 50,000 tonnes, down from 68,000 tonnes in the 2018/2019 farming season.
Increased women participation in coffee farming could help increase certified coffee production in Tanzania. “There are buyers who specialise in buying coffee sourced from women-owned or women-managed farms globally. These clients empower women, coffee farmers, through different development donations with the intention of improving coffee produced by women,” Christian Sakalani, a facilitator at IMS, said.
Equalizing women’s access to agricultural inputs, including time-saving equipment, and increasing the return to these inputs is critical to close gender gaps in agricultural productivity. It also results in significant economic and social gains. According to a 2019 policy brief by UNWomen closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity across Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Malawi, and Uganda could raise crop production by 19 percent, boost agricultural and overall GDP, and lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty.