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EPAs, An Assault on Africa's Food Sovereignty: Why a Gender and Women's Rights Analysis is Important for Africa

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Food sovereignty goes beyond enabling access to food; it is about determining how people can use the resources available to them to ensure they have sustainable food security. It is also about supporting the rights of individuals and communities to define their own needs.Women in Sub-Saharan Africa have been most affected by international free trade agreements that reduce tariffs for importing countries, and limit governments' ability to protect domestic agricultural production. This is because in many African countries women form the majority of small farmers, and are finding themselves competing in local markets with cheap produce from the European Union (EU) and USA. Despite this, women are not usually found in decision and policy making platforms that guide the food sovereignty agenda of their countries. They have, for example, been visibly absent from trade negotiations over the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), which will require African nations to remove trade barriers for EU countries within a short space of time. Likely significant impacts of the EPAs on the agricultural sector across Sub-Saharan Africa could include a flood of cheap imports from the EU and subsequent pressure on rural economies. Given women's difficulties in accessing new technologies, land and credit, they will find it hardest to compete in this new environment. The paper argues that it is therefore crucial that they are able to contribute their perspectives and identify their needs in discussions around the EPAs and the broader trade context.

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