Stories tagged: international women’s day

Edouard Nizeyimana: Purchasing Pulses to Support Women Producers

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

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

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

Rose Akaki: The voice of a female farmer

Today, in the lead up to International Women’s Day on 8th March, Farming First captures the voice of a female smallholder farmer who highlights the challenges still faced by women each day as they strive to provide nutritious food for their families in Uganda. Rose Akaki rears cattle for beef and grows maize, both of which she sells to local schools to feed the children. She has recently started to keep bees.

How much of the land do women in Uganda own?

About 80% of farmers in Uganda are women, producing 60% of food but they only own 1% of land they use for farming; a meagre percentage. The rest of the land is under the control of men, as land ownership in Uganda is a preserve of men. So, what is planted on such land is dictated by them. They decide which crops can be planted. For instance, a man can decide to use the land to grow cash crops like tobacco or sugar cane that fetch a higher price at the market, and yet these crops are not food crops. This implies that the size of land that women use for agriculture is very limited, and whatever is produced from such land is limited to household consumption. Furthermore, this land is overused and has low fertility.

Is there any technology to help women boost yields?

Ox ploughs are starting to come in, but most women still use a hand hoe. This means farming is very labour intensive. A lot of the work is done by women, who also have many other care giving tasks to complete. So we really need technology to reduce the time and energy a woman spends on the farm so that she can do other things and grow more food to feed her family. We are a long way off from having tractors – there are a few privately owned tractors but a rural woman farmer will not have the money to hire them.

Do any extension services reach your community?

Extension services do exist but you have to pay for them. If I need a vet to look at my cows, then I have to pay for his transport, expertise and the drugs he will recommend, and then feed the person when they visit my house, it is quite discouraging for a smallholder farmer.

Are women able to sell surplus crops?

People can sell what they want but peak season is a problem. Everyone has the same product so the price gets lower. We need effective storage systems so we can get a better price for our crops later in the year. This also calls for getting organised in groups.

Do women have access to finance?

This is a big challenge. The Government of Uganda has encouraged people to go into microfinance, but loans come with demands. A rural women farmer who only owns a tiny amount of land may not have the collateral to put down as security. What our farmers’ organisation has done to address this is to encourage women to form groups, called Savings and Co-operative Societies in villages. Every week women are encouraged to put something in a saving box, this accumulates and you are then able to borrow from that box to cater for your farm and family needs.

What recommendations would you make to policymakers?

More money could be spent on agriculture. In Uganda, agriculture is the backbone of the economy and more money would do a lot of good in the sector. Also, smallholder farmers, especially women rural farmers, should be part of the policy making process, so they can articulate the issues that concern them. Sometimes policies are made for us and we don’t get the benefits.

The government is already doing a lot to ensure sustained agricultural production, but implementation of the policies is often a problem. There are many good policies on land rights, ownership and modernisation of agriculture. I call upon our farmer organisations to monitor the implementation of such policies so that the smallholder farmer can benefit and government can see the value of their investments.

What is your final message as a female farmer on International Women’s Day?

Rural women farmers produce most of the food to feed the family. These women should be empowered to improve their productivity, by giving them access to land, better tools to till the land, seeds and agrochemicals, access to financial services to improve their farm practices, information on weather, but also affordable agricultural extension services. Then, women can produce more food for the growing population.

 

Farming First and FAO launch Interactive Infographic: ‘The Female Face of Farming”

Farming First and The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have jointly launched a new interactive infographic entitled “The Female Face of Farming”.

The infographic is a striking visual representation of the statistics that underlie the urgent need to invest in rural women. You can view the full infographic at: farmingfirst.org/women

Women are the backbone of the green economy, especially in the developing world where (on average) they comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labor force. Yet they receive only a fraction of the land, credit, inputs (such as improved seeds and fertilizers), agricultural training and information compared to men.

The impacts of the gender gap in agriculture are significant. Women farmers typically achieve yields that are 20-30 percent lower than men. Yet the vast majority of literature reviewed confirms that women are just as efficient as men and would achieve the same yields if they had equal access to productive resources and services.

If women were given equal access to resources as men, they would achieve the same yield levels, boosting total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 – 4 percent.

This additional yield could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100-150 million or 12–17 percent. In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa alone, that would reduce the numbers of malnourished children by 13.4 and 1.7 million respectively.

As we strive to meet the global food security challenge and produce enough food to feed an estimated population of 9 billion people by 2050 then empowering and investing in rural women will be instrumental in meeting this demand. Not only will this help significantly increase productivity, but also it will help reduce hunger and malnutrition and improve rural livelihoods. And not only for women, but for everyone.

The infographic consists of 17 individually-designed graphics, each of which tells a part of this important story.  Each graphic can be Tweeted and/or embedded for use in presentations or blog posts.

Key questions addressed in the infographic are:

  • Why are women so important to agriculture?
  • Where does the gender gap exist in agriculture?
  • What are the impacts of the gender gap in agriculture?

The infographic has been launched in parallel with the ongoing UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and International Women’s Day on 8th March.

 

Raising the Profile of Women Farmers on International Women’s Day

Today’s report from FAO truly shows the huge untapped potential that women farmers hold. In it’s 2010-2011 edition of The State of the Food and Agriculture report, they wrote,

If women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.

Neil Palmer, CIAT

Globally, the share of women employed in agriculture stands at 35.4 per cent, as compared to 32.2 per cent for men, but this proportion rises to almost half of all female employment, at 48.4 per cent, if the more industrialized regions are excluded. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia the agricultural sector makes up more than 60 per cent of all female employment.

Generally, women do not access the same resources – inputs, finance, support, land – as men and consequently their productivity is lower. Financial resources are limited for women: they receive 7 per cent of the agricultural extension services and less than 10 per cent of the credit offered to small-scale farmers. Women generally own less land and the land they have is often of lower quality than the land owned by men. According to the International Development Research Centre, women in Africa only own 1 per cent of the land. Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women’s farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent.

Research shows that if women farmers in Kenya had the same access to farm inputs, education, and experience as their men counterparts, their yields for maize, beans, and cowpeas could increase as much as 22 percent. This would have resulted in a one-time doubling of Kenya’s GDP growth rate in 2004 from 4.3 percent to 8.3 percent (World Bank).

On Reuters Trust website today, FANRPAN’s Lindiwe Majele Sibanda told the story of the “voiceless pillars of African agriculture”: the women farmers. She wrote,

A combination of logistical, cultural, and economic factors, coupled with a lack of gender statistics in the agricultural sector, means that agricultural programs are rarely designed with women’s needs in mind. As a result, African women farmers have no voice in the development of agricultural policies designed to improve their productivity.

However, FANRPAN’s WARM project (Women Accessing Realigned Markets) is helping to address that.

Based on results of a FANRPAN commissioned input subsidy study done in Malawi and Mozambique, FANRPAN has developed a theatre script “The Winds of Change”. The play explores challenges rural women farmers face in accessing agricultural inputs, land, credit and extension services among other things.

Through performance, women are able to voice their concerns, pressures and ideas in front of local leaders and policy makers.

Photo credit: Neil Palmer, CIAT