Although she is a graduate, she is first and foremost a farmer. She has her land which she bought ever before she got into activism. As a farmer, she grows cashew nuts and pineapple. But this is a farmer who has gone to world capitals, from New York to Addis Ababa, speaking on one item everywhere – land rights for rural African women farmers.
It was in Addis Ababa, for example, where she was elected in 2015 as President of the Rural Women Farmers Forum, (RWFF), a continent wide platform for women empowerment on the push for land rights. She had gone to Addis to join other beneficiaries of ActionAid International, (AAI) and Oxfam’s ‘Female Food Heroes’ but only to be elected the president. Today, the RWFF exists in 22 other African countries and they are stepping up mobilisation, building the capacity of members and potential members by exposing them to the world beyond localism and enhancing their advocacy on the central issue that concerns them.
A year after her election, she was leading 500 rural African women farmers to the peak of the Kilimanjaro Mountain in Arusha, Tanzania, complete with artistes from Australia, public officials, players from the NGOs, among others. So, why did they chose the mountain top, a journey of four days of climbing, plenty of water, jungle boots and escorts? It was a symbolic choice, she explains. They wanted their voice to be heard from the highest point in Africa. It was under the ‘Kilimanjaro Initiative’ powered by the slogan “Land is my Life” but in itself a campaign to make land tenure most favourable to women farmers in rural Africa.
Did Africa hear the voice from the mountain top? Yes, Africa did is what Eva would say. Her proof that Africa did is in the African Union, (AU)’s decision that, by 2020, 30% of women must own land in every African country and each African government is to comply. As there is no higher normative power in Africa than the AU, she argues that women have won the battle for land rights. This is more so that the national front of the RWFF in each African country is pushing the case locally.
She says that, in Nigeria, for example, there are states where women have started owning land and exercising right over it. And this she attributes to meetings the Small-scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria, (SWOFON) which is the national front for RWFF has had with community and religious leaders, government officials and other stakeholders. There has also been so much progress in Rwanda. Similarly, in Tanzania, she speaks of the outcome of meetings set up with government leaders, community power structures and religious leaders on why women must own land. One such outcome, according to her, is women ownership of land in regions such as Kishapu, Shiyanga, Singida, Dodoma, Mbeya. In these areas, rural women farmers have received the title deed. There is also the example of a man married to six wives who has given title deeds to each of the wives. That is to say that, as husband, the land was under his control.
What difference does this make? For her, it makes all the difference. “Land is capital. As capital, you own everything. You produce and you decide what to do with it”. And then she follows this Ivy League economic analysis with an example that makes the point clearer. It is the story of the cassava farmer in Kisauga in Tanzania’s coastal region but who was producing on her husband’s farmland. All was well till children of the husband from another woman came into the picture during one harvest time, sold the cassava and unilaterally split the money. “She lost so much because she had no right over the land. So, land right is everything for a rural woman farmer”.
She stretches the argument further by saying that they are not just demanding for land rights, they are demanding along with it agricultural inputs availability, equal access to education, quality public transportation, electricity supply, better health care facilities and the likes. The logic goes like this: when a society provides all these, it saves women in particular a lot of the hassles of living. “If the water supply system is good, it saves women the hassle of going far to fetch water before going to the farm and after returning from the farm. The same thing if there is good public transport. Then, taking children to school won’t be so much trouble”. Her clincher is this: it is all these hassles that makes a 30 year old woman look like a 60 year old.
Eva Daudi would protest being labelled as a no ordinary farmer. She thinks she is but activism has certainly made her understand how the world works, far beyond the level of her formal education which is a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from The Open University of Tanzania. Hers is thus the story of the organic activist. She is not a product of any elite universities anywhere in the world but leadership comes to her easily, a claim that suggests itself from the totality of her story as in this encounter with Intervention recently in Arusha, Tanzania.