Africa’s Invisible Farmers | God's World News
Africa’s Invisible Farmers
Jet Balloon
Posted: May 01, 2024
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    Mariama Sonko and other members of We Are the Solution take part in a workshop in the Casamance village of Niaguis, Senegal. (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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    Mariama Sonko’s training center in the Casamance village of Niaguis, Senegal (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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    The women share farming knowledge. (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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    Plants grow at the training center. (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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    Mariama Sonko poses in the seed hut of the training center. (AP/Sylvain Cherkaoui)
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Forty female farmers sit in the shade of a cashew tree in Ziguinchor, Senegal. They scribble notes. Their brows furrow as they think hard.

Thud. That’s the sound of falling fruit.

Who farms the fruit and nuts? Women do.

They’re listening to Mariama Sonko teach. This Senegalese woman trains other women to farm. She started We Are the Solution, a women’s movement in West Africa. In her part of the world, loads of women do farm work. But they very rarely own land. Most land is given to men.

“We work from dawn until dusk, but with all that we do, what do we get out of it?” Ms. Sonko asks. “Women farmers are invisible,” agrees Laure Tall, research director at Agricultural and Rural Prospect Initiative in Senegal. That’s even though women work on farms two to four hours longer than men on an average day.

Across West Africa, women leave the community when they marry. But when they move to their husbands’ homes, they don’t share ownership of family land. That’s because they are not related to their husbands by blood.

Ms. Sonko watched her mother struggle after her father died. Her mom had young children to care for. “If she had land, she could have supported us,” she remembers. Ms. Sonko had to marry young. She stopped going to school. She left her family. She worked on farms, but not on her farm. Someone else always owned the land.

But what happens when women stop following this pattern? Everyone benefits. Ms. Sonko believes that when rural women own land, communities grow strong. Women reinvest in their community. They pay for children to be educated.

We Are the Solution pays to help women start farms of their own. The good grows and grows. Now 115,000 women have joined Ms. Sonko’s work.

For an example of women owning land, read about Moses and the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers 26-27.

Why? It is important for all people to have equal rights to own land and benefit from their work.