Stories tagged: international women’s day

#IWD2017 – 17 Programs Helping Women Feed the World

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-15-42-24

Welcome to our new series “Supporter Spotlight”, where we showcase the fantastic work our supporters are doing to further sustainable agriculture worldwide. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we take a look at the programs levelling the planting field for female farmers.

1. We Farm: How single parent Clara increased her income

Clara discovered that her cow had a mineral deficiency that was making her bones weak. Through the mobile peer-to-peer advice network We Farm, Clara was advised that she should feed the cow with feeds rich with calcium and phosphorus. Another farmer also sent Clara an SMS with advice on how to grow hydroponic fodder which could help to substitute minerals in her cow feed, at a cheaper cost. Not only did she solve her problem but also learned a new skill in the process. Read more. Continue reading

Yvette Ondachi: Helping Women Play A Pivotal Role in the Food Value Chain

yvette

Yvette Ondachi is the founder of Ojay Greene, a Kenyan agribusiness that connects rural farmers to urban markets. Ahead of International Women’s Day, she shares stories of the female farmers she works with, and offers her own advice to female entrepreneurs.

Sub Saharan Africa imports food worth $30billion annually, yet the continent has enough land to grow food that will feed itself and still have more to export to other parts of the world. Kenya is not exempt from this equation. The big question is why the mismatch?

The majority of the Kenyan population depends on agriculture for a living – 26 million people are smallholder farmers and close to 70% of these live below the poverty line – earning $700 annually or less. The underlying cause of these miserable statistics is that these smallholder farmers have an over-reliance on rain fed farming – this is despite the changing climate patterns. They find themselves unable to meet the rising demand for fruits and vegetables in urban areas brought about by increasing populations and a rapidly growing middle class.

Ojay Greene is an innovative agribusiness with a social mission: to increase the incomes of smallholder farmers. The enterprise does this by working with smallholder farmers to help them tap into the growing demand of fresh fruits and vegetables in urban markets. By interacting with farmers, Ojay Greene strives to change their behaviours from subsistence farming to commercial farming using an approach that involves tackling their immediate and potential risks; the main one being climate change.

So how do we do this? Ojay Greene uses a mobile platform to offer smallholder farmers advisory services, agronomic extension services, access to farm inputs and market linkage. Farmers get weekly instructions on their mobile phones enabling them to follow the exact steps when planting. This enables them to produce a standardized product, that complies with market specifications. In addition, they can ask questions through the platform when they are in doubt. They can also alert our team about any unusual pests or diseases they encounter during production. Ojay Greene sees to it that farmers are visited monthly by their agronomists to ensure that they get the technical support they require and that they are following the right steps to produce high quality and competitive products. These measures ensure that smallholder farmers have a consistent revenue stream.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I’d like to share with you a story about Mary, a female farmer who embodies a true picture of resilience. Mary lost her home and became internally displaced person during the post election violence that occurred in 2007. She was fortunate enough to lease a piece of land from the government to enable her cultivate crops to sell in the local market. Despite this opportunity, she had to contend with herdsmen from the neighbouring pastoral community who would let their cattle feed on her hard-earned crops. She would consider herself very fortunate if she managed to make $500 annually. Ojay Greene was introduced to Mary’s farmer group in September 2016. Mary grows leafy green vegetables – (both conventional and indigenous African varieties) which happen to be in very high demand in urban areas. By working with Mary, we have helped her access quality seed, harvest a bountiful crop and access a profitable urban market. If she continues with this trend she will be able to increase her annual income to US$ 1,000 by September 2017.

img_20170218_115341

From our work with smallholder farmers, we have observed that female farmers have immense potential to play a pivotal role in the food value chain in Kenya and Africa. This is because they tend to be more organized in regards to conforming to our model which requires smallholder farmers to work together as a farming community in groups. Our model fosters team work; farmers agree to plant on the same day, visit each others farms, give each other developmental feedback and have a sense of healthy competition amongst themselves. Most of the ones we’ve worked with are beginning to realize the benefits of working together. Together they have collective bargaining power that spurs them on to generate enough income to educate their children. This said, women need more access to financing – stronger links to market and continuous knowledge transfer to make them more productive.

As a female entrepreneur, my biggest barrier being the barrier to financing – I faced broken promises from potential financiers and investors, as well as delayed payments from clients. I observed that an underfinanced company fails to realize its potential and the growth is hampered. I have learnt that laser focus is a critical attribute when all else fails. I remember the initial reason that drove me to start Ojay Greene and realize that quitting is not an option. I lift myself up and encourage myself to hold on because the road to success is filled with setbacks and roadblocks, but those who endure to the end leave a legacy that surpasses their generation.

My advise to other female entrepreneurs: “Don’t wait to be validated. Follow your aspirations no matter what barriers come your way. Focus on what’s working and seek to replicate it. I look forward to seeing you at the top.”

Hearing Women Farmers Speak on #IWD2016

IF

The World Economic Forum estimated last year, that a slowdown in the slow progress towards gender equality meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133. This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is “pledging for parity”, to ensure that this change happens sooner.

At Farming First, we are working to make sure the voices of women farmers are heard – from getting them onto speaker rosters at global events, to accompanying them to present at United Nations negotiations. We know that closing the gender gap in agriculture would have a remarkable impact on reducing world hunger. Check out our infographic “The Female Face of Farming” to find out how: Continue reading

Edouard Nizeyimana: Purchasing Pulses to Support Women Producers

_Edouard-1

What does one bag of beans mean in the global effort to end hunger? It turns out, a lot. 2016 is the International Year of Pulses. It is also the first full year in which we are officially working toward the Sustainable Development Goals, which set an ambitious but attainable target to end hunger by 2030. An important part of this is improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers – especially women. We have found a way of doing this that also strengthens resilience and improves nutrition: buying more beans and peas.

As the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, the World Food Programme (WFP) reaches an average of 80 million people each year with life-saving food assistance. We also work to eradicate the root causes of hunger; one way we do this is by sourcing our food in ways that build stronger and more inclusive food systems.

In 2008, we launched Purchase for Progress (P4P) to explore how to source food more directly from the small-scale farmers. Purchasing earlier in the supply chain means a great deal of logistical challenges. To address these we have worked with a wide variety of partners, especially host governments and other United Nations agencies – such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – to help farmers produce more, reduce their post-harvest losses and work together as businesses capable of dealing with everything from formal contracts to transportation. To date we have purchased over US$190 million worth of food from smallholder farmers, and have a goal to purchase 10 per cent of all our food within the next three years.

Sample types and qualities of pulses used at a training session in Ghana. Copyright: WFP

Sample types and qualities of pulses used at a training session in Ghana. Copyright: WFP

Supporting women farmers

These are all major steps toward forging more sustainable and inclusive food systems. But food systems must be inclusive not only of smallholder farmers in general, but women farmers in particular. Women farmers play a crucial role in agriculture – especially food production. But women’s labour is often invisible, unpaid and undervalued, and they usually have less access to productive assets than men. Plus, in many households, decisions about the production and marketing of crops are made by men. This leaves women providing a great deal of labour without reaping the rewards, and without the economic and social empowerment that comes with financial stability.

Our focus on supporting women farmers under P4P has taught us a great deal. We have helped women to access time and labour-saving equipment, such as cattle and mechanical shellers, to lighten their workload. We have also carried out awareness-raising efforts on the importance of gender equality, and held training to teach them to read and to increase their confidence. We have seen women’s participation in membership and leadership positions increase.

Despite progress made, we still face challenges ensuring that women are able to market the crops they produce. During the pilot implementation of P4P, it was discovered that one of the keys to unlocking women’s potential to participate in sales was a simple one: changing which crops we purchase.

Niébé is a local form of cowpea largely farmed by women in West Africa. Copyright: WFP/Eliza Warren-Shriner

Niébé is a local form of cowpea largely farmed by women in West Africa. Copyright: WFP/Eliza Warren-Shriner

Purchasing pulses

In many places, decisions about who produces and markets which crop are made based upon traditional gender roles. For example, in some parts of West Africa, maize and sorghum are considered “men’s crops”, while women produce pulses like cowpeas, beans and pigeon peas. Initially we were buying “men’s crops,” but we listened when women told us that they wanted a way of diversifying their incomes to provide additional benefits for their families.

In West Africa, a local variety of cowpea called niébé is frequently produced by women farmers on small plots for household consumption. Niébé is difficult for smallholders to produce for sale – the seeds can be costly and storing them is challenging as they are prone to infestation. But with training from WFP and partners, farmers are now better able to produce niébé commercially. In some countries, women were provided with Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) bags which are a cost-effective solution to reduce infestation in cowpeas. In Ghana, multiplication efforts have brought down the cost of seeds.

Many benefits

In Burkina Faso, 96% of participants in cowpea sales to WFP are women. Azeta Sawadogo is one of the farmers who have benefitted – achieving her lifelong dream to own a bicycle.

Azeta poses with the bike she was able to purchase thanks to her niébé sales. Copyright: WFP

 

I feel proud of myself and the group of women I work with in our decision to sell cowpeas to WFP. We are now admired in the village because even male heads of households do not own a bicycle

In Zambia, almost half of the pulses used in school meals come from women farmers’ organizations. These women are looking beyond WFP to a variety of other buyers. With their increased incomes, they can invest in building new houses and sending their children to school.

And pulses have many other benefits. Pulses are high in nutritional value – and in some cases, efforts to strengthen agricultural production of pulses have been coupled with nutrition-sensitive messaging – teaching farmers such as Awa Tessougué the importance of eating niébé at home for improved nutrition. Pulses are also resilient and environmentally friendly – they are generally drought-resistant and “fix” nitrogen in soil, meaning that they return the nutrients to the soil that can be stripped by the production of other crops.

In building inclusive and effective food systems we must provide women with the tools to take part fully in decision-making processes. In doing so, we must listen to their needs and desires, and continue to learn better ways of supporting them to benefit from their agricultural work. There are many potential solutions to the challenges women face, and a great deal more work to be done. Purchasing more pulses may be only one of these solutions, but each bag of cowpeas is a good start.

The Business of Bee Keeping in Botswana

Beekeeping

To celebrate International Women’s Day we are profiling young entrepreneur Tshepiso Marumo, from Botswana, who has been keeping bees and producing honey based products since 2007. We find out about the challenges she has faced to get her business off the ground, and the tips she has for aspiring agriculture entrepreneurs. 

This blog is part of an ongoing partnership with the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD).

When Tshepiso began her beekeeping business in her spare time, while a university student studying for a management degree, her family was not convinced this was going to a viable career choice. Like many young people, she was encouraged to stick to her studies and get a white-collar job. But Tshepiso was undeterred. She enrolled in a beekeeping course run by the Ministry of Agriculture, and started saving her allowance and investing in the stock market to raise the capital to start-up her business. Continue reading

13 Empowering Stories of Women in Family Farming

Photo credit: Farm Africa

To celebrate the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, Farming First has curated a list of 13 inspiring stories of women’s empowerment as heads of rural family farms, from our 130+ supporter organisation base. It is the first in our brand new series of content mash ups.

Women account for 60 to 80% of smallholder farmers in the developing world. Yet in sub-Saharan Africa, only 15% of landholders are women, and they receive less than 10% of credit and 7% of extension services. Policies that address gender inequalities could lift 150 million people out of hunger. How can women be empowered to make this estimation a reality?

1. IDE: Veronica Builds a House… With Tomatoes

Veronica Sianchenga was one of the first in her village to buy the Mosi-o-Tunya, a locally manufactured treadle pump developed by iDE Zambia in response to the needs of local customers. It costs less than imported pumps and produces a higher output because it was designed for the specific local topography of rural Zambia. Using their Mosi-o-Tunya, Veronica’s family has already started reaping the benefits of additional income from irrigated produce thanks to iDE’s links to wholesalers and caterers in Livingstone. More

2. IFDC: Using Vegetables to Increase Gender Equity in Bangladesh

IFDC has been active in Bangladesh for over 35 years – assisting farmers to increase productivity, advocating for enabling policy environments and introducing new productivity-enhancing technologies such as fertilizer deep placement. Now, IFDC’s focus reaches beyond rice production to fruit and vegetable crops – an area deemed to be almost exclusively the domain of women. Helping women improve the productivity of more nutritious, high-value products such as vegetables and fruits not only increases family income but also promotes ground-level nutrition by increasing the amount of healthy food available for home consumption. More

IFDC in Bangladesh

3. TechnoServe: Guatemalan Women Launch Successful Nut Product Business

TechnoServe is helping a group of Guatemalan women to harvest, process and commercialize Ramon nut food products. “Alimentos NutriNaturales” has offered hope to many poor women in the community – hope that they could bring in extra incomes for their families and take on new responsibilities outside the home. More

Technoserve

4. FANRPAN: Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) Project Uses Theatre to Give African Women Farmers a Voice

FANRPAN‘s Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) Project seeks to strengthen women farmers’ ability to advocate for appropriate agricultural policies and programmes. The project uses an innovative tool, Theatre for Policy Advocacy, to engage leaders, service providers and policymakers, encourage community participation, and research the needs of women farmers. The project in pilot sites in Malawi and Mozambique. More

5. One Acre Fund: Carolyn Lunani Increases Her Acreage Six-Fold

Twenty-eight-year-old Carolyn Lunani farms four acres of land, where she plants beans, peanuts, bananas, sweet potatoes, trees and other vegetables. In 2009, she joined One Acre Fund, who provide farmers with a service bundle that includes seed and fertilizer, credit, training, and market facilitation. With the extra profits she has earned since joining One Acre Fund, Carolyn has bought a cow and constructed additional rooms on her land that she rents.

Photo courtesy of One Acre Fund/Hailey Tucker

Photo courtesy of One Acre Fund/Hailey Tucker

Click here to download a photo essay on Carolyn Lunani from One Acre Fund

6. International Plant Nutrition Institute: Helping Indian Women Self Help Groups Make the Right Fertilizer Decision

In South Asia, 90 percent of smallholder farmers using fertilizer do not achieve optimum crop yields due to a lack of access to soil testing services. In response to this information gap, the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) South Asia Program developed the Nutrient Expert® decision support tools in partnership with MAIZE CRP to provide location-specific fertilizer recommendations for farmers growing maize and wheat. More

Photo courtesy of CIMMYT

Photo courtesy of CIMMYT

7. Self Help Africa: Banana Boom for Zambian Women

Christine Mwale predicts that the income of women in her village can double when they become full-time suppliers to the new Banana Enterprise Project being supported by Self Help Africa in Nyimba, Zambia. Established by Self Help Africa in collaboration with Nyimba District Farmers Association, the project will buy banana from 600 women farmers with small plantations in the area. More.

8. Farm Africa: Working with Women in Ethiopia to End Poor Nutrition

Before joining Farm Africa’s project in Tigray, Zemansh and her family had no assets or resources and worked as labourers to get some money to buy food. They were lucky to eat one meal a day. Farm Africa provided Zemansh with two goats and training in goat management and breeding. More

Photo credit: Farm Africa

Photo credit: Farm Africa

 

9. World Farmer’s Organisation: Why Women Farmers are Part of the Climate Change Solution

Filmed at COP19, held in Warsaw in 2013, Susan Carlson, Chairperson of the Women’s Committee of the World Farmers Organisation explains how women farmers can be a part of the solution for both food security and climate change, if they are given equal access to knowledge and technologies. More

10. African Enterprise Challenge Fund – Mariam Kamo’s Cocoa Farm in Sierra Leone Goes from Strength to Strength

Mariam Kamo inherited a large cocoa plot when her husband died , and manages it with her tw sons. Biolands Intl., Africa’s largest exporter of organic cocoa, has been working with smallholder farmers in the Mbeya region since 1999, providing training, technical advice, supplies of seedlings and pruning equipment. Mariam now gets a much higher price for the coffee she produces and can pay the school fees for her four grandchildren. More

mariam-kamo

 

11. Fintrac: Helping Esther Fatachi to Turn Chillis into Cash

The Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development program (Zim-AIED), in partnership with Better Agriculture, has worked with smallholder farmers at Tshovani, Zimbabwe to diversify from low yielding crops to produce African Birds’ Eye chillies.With input loans and training, farmers like Esther Fatachi saw their profits soar. Esther earned more than $5,000 after selling her produce, with which she purchased a residential stand at a nearby business centre, a water pump, and paid school fees for her grandchild. More

success-zim-aied2-b

12. Panaac: Linking Women’s Co-operatives to Market in Kenya

Lucy Muchoki Panaac

Lucy Muchoki of the Pan African Agribusiness and Agroindustry Consortium owns a business in Nairobi, Kenya and engages women’s co-operatives to grow the raw crops she needs to process the herbal products she sells. Watch the video here.

13. Farming First Compiles Evidence for Investment in Female Farmers

Farming First partnered with FAO to raise awareness of the gender gap in agriculture, and the impact that closing that gap would have. To explore the award-winning infographic “The Female Face of Farming” in full, click on the image below.

Female Face of Farming