Women in agriculture symposium at the Embassy of Japan

Ambassador Norio Maruyama of Japan (centre) and Dr Debbie Raphuti (3rd from left) with delegates at the symposium

1 June 2022

At a recent dinner hosted by Mr Norio Maruyama, Ambassador of Japan to South Africa at his residence in Waterkloof, Pretoria, the value of the culinary arts was experienced.  His chef Jun Suzuki conjured up Japanese style dishes using South African produce and ingredients. The indulgence in eating begins with the farmer. The rearing of livestock, the growing of herbs, spices, grains, fruit and vegetables, the knowledge of the ideal timing of the season to plant and the time to harvest lends to the quality of the end product, as does the processing of the raw produce.
The dishes prepared by Chef Suzuki and his wife Mutsumi (l-r) TATAKI of Tuna, Green Salad with HOOZUKI, beef fillet SUKIYAKI style and walnut MOCHI and mini DORAYAKI served with green tea

On May 28 Maruyama together with the Japanese Embassy and World Women Leading Change (WWLC) hosted a symposium themed ‘Leading in Breaking Biasness in Agriculture’ focused specifically on Women in Agriculture.  The Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP,) a Japanese agriculture, agri-processing and agri-business program has been successfully implemented in Kenya by Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to enhance the production of small farmers. SHEP Specialist Mr Nobuhide Hayashi and chief advisor to JICA attended the symposium to share the knowledge and success that was being achieved in rural Kenya.

Opening the discussion and welcoming the participants Ambassador Maruyama said the upcoming TICAD – Tokyo Conference on Africa’s Development multilateral forum which is set to take place in Tunisia’s capital later this year will prioritize agriculture. Gender parity and the role of women in bolstering food security and the vital role they play in the agricultural value chain will be central to this year’s TICAD which was launched in 1993.

Maruyama also expressed gratitude for the support of Minister Thoko Didiza of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development of South Africa who delivered a video recorded keynote message. Didiza referred to the South African Constitution which pays particular attention to the guarantee of Women’s rights. She welcomed the expansion of the Smallholder Horticulture Empowerment and Promotion (SHEP) which was piloted in Kenya and has over 2500 small scale farmers who have more than doubled their production and managed to sell their produce to significantly improve revenue generation. Empowerment policies should target women in the allocation of land, access to capital and the development of enabling financial instruments.

Princess Dr Debbie Raphuti, Africa President of the WWLC said that women are the backbone of the community and of society at large and are key to achieving sustainable development. Putting women at the forefront, removing all forms of discrimination and defeating the scourge of violence against women is the way forward. Women make up 60% of the human resources engaged in the food production supply chain and are critical in health and wellness and the prevention of malnutrition and starvation.

SHEP Specialist Mr Nobuhide Hayashi addressing the symposium

SHEP is an approach which realizes "Market-Oriented Agriculture" and converts farmers’ minds from ‘grow and sell’ to ‘grow to sell’ explained Hayashi and this has doubled the farmer’s income in just 2 years in Kenya. A video clip showed how a family owned farm became successful through an open and shared knowledge of income generation and revenue management. Brenda Apio Oca of Upside Africa added her voice by endorsing the inclusive agriculture process and digital literacy in breaking the bias.

The panel discussion that followed advocated a greater appreciation of the small scale farmer and the multiplier value of women in the agriculture sector. The importance of being decisive and conscious of what you grow, and for whom, to access targeted markets, to ensure a constant revenue flow, is a conclusion that can be drawn from the symposium.

Kirtan Bhana