Stories tagged: Self Help Africa

#FillTheGap! Breadwinners and homemakers in Malawi

This is the final post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture. 

Malidadi Chilongo may only be 27 but she is already a small-scale farmer, a mother-of-four, and her husband’s second wife.

She met her husband when she was 15, fell in love, and married. She has a good relationship with her husband’s first wife, who has five children.

“I was nervous at first to come here but it has been fine,” she said. “We get along well. We help each other out – I care for her children and she cares for mine if we need to do other things.”

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International Women’s Day: Eight Women Who Have Filled the Gender Gap in Agriculture

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, IFDC‘s Deputy Director for North and West Africa Oumou Camara blogs for Next Billion, sharing the stories of eight extraordinary women that have succeeded in bridging the gender gap in agriculture. Read the original post here.

Women account for more than 40 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide but they own less than 20 percent of the world’s land, earning just a fraction of what their male counterparts do.

As the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women explores how to empower rural women, Farming First is sharing stories of women all over the world that are bridging this gap in agriculture.

Jahanara Begum: Proof is in the profit in Bangladesh

In a country where less than 60 percent of women are economically active, female farmers like Jahanara Begum, 45, face negative comments and scepticism from their communities and even their families. But for Begum, the results spoke for themselves after she became a Farm Business Advisor and started selling vegetable seeds and other inputs like fertilizers, vermicompost and pest management tools to farmers with the support of PROOFS (Profitable Opportunities for Food Security), a Dutch-funded project led by iDE and partners. Jahanara used previous contacts in her network to her advantage – not only to reach 250 producer groups as part of the project, but to go beyond that to reach more groups in the remote riverine islands. She later took out a loan from a financial institution, overcoming social norms and gender bias to expand her business and strengthen her linkages with private companies. Her business track record ensured that the financial institution did not deem her too risky to give out the loan.

Jahanara Begum, Farm Business Advisor (Photo: iDE PROOFS)

Esperanza Dionisio Castillo: Climbing the ladder in Peru

As Esperanza Dionisio Castillo rose up the ranks to become general manager of the Pangoa Cooperative, a cocoa growing union in San Martín de Pangoa, Peru, she found few other female role models to follow. She experienced greater scrutiny and mistrust in leading the cooperative as a woman. But after proving herself by bringing higher and more consistent incomes to rural families, Castillo wanted to ensure that other women found an easier path. So she offered rural female members support through health services, leadership training through the co-op’s Committee for the Development of Women and access to credit via social investment fund Root Capital.

Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, General Manager of C.A.C. Pangoa

Fatima Nadinga: Credit where it’s due in Burkina Faso

Accessing credit is often a challenge for smallholder farmers, and it is even harder for women. That’s why a USAID-funded project implemented by non-profit CNFA is training women in the “warrantage” credit mechanism. The system allows farmers to use their grain as collateral to obtain credit from a bank or microfinance institution rather than selling their harvest all at once. Under this system, farmers like Fatima Nadinga can deposit their crops and access credit to invest in their farms and generate more income, while also strategically selling their crops at the highest price.

Josefina dos Santos Lourenço: Give a little to get a lot in Mozambique

Josefina, a young Mozambican, had aspirations of owning her own business. But she wasn’t earning enough selling food at her small market stand to support her family. Her situation is not uncommon; women account for almost 90 percent of the work force in Mozambican agriculture, but represent just a quarter of the land owners holding official user rights. But Lourenço’s prospects improved when she was recruited by Export Marketing Company Limited, a major agricultural trading company, with support from Fintrac’s Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program. Lourenço received three training sessions in the first six months and a 50 percent discount on her initial inventory of inputs, like fertilizer and crop protection products for her input shop. She now serves almost 1,000 farmers and has become financially independent.

Lidia Grueso: Paying it forward in Colombia

In Colombia, where women make up 40 percent of the cocoa growers’ association COMCACAOT, Lidia Grueso, 41, has already overcome gender bias and prejudices to become a union manager. But the five-year-old association has still faced the challenge of accessing credit and loans for its members. USAID’s Rural Finance Initiative has helped individual farmers access loans, vouching for almost 375 of its members. This allows women to afford inputs like fertilizer to improve their business and to better pay the staff harvesting the cocoa.

Yinka Adesola: Field school founder inspires youth in Nigeria

After attending trainings sponsored by IFDC’s 2SCALE project, Yinka Adesola learned how to increase farm productivity with good agricultural practices and integrated soil fertility management. She was also taught business management strategies such as marketing and selling crops. She knew she needed to inspire others with what she had learnt. “I wanted to hold other trainings to attract more youth to agriculture, to show that agriculture is a lucrative business,” she says. Now, every three months, trainees from all around Nigeria come to her field school, the Entrepreneur Youth Multipurpose Cooperative, to learn vegetable production and farm management.

Ethel Khundi: Doubling down on diversity in Malawi

The impact of the gender gap in agriculture worldwide results in a yield gap of up to 30 percent because women are unable to access the same resources as men. But a Self Help Africa program in Malawi has trained female livestock keepers in conservation farming techniques that use zero tillage to safeguard moisture in the soil, allowing them to diversify their farms. As well as raising her pigs, Ethel Khundi, 36, has also been able to produce three times more maize, which was a valuable insurance when she lost her entire drove of pigs to swine flu. Instead, her maize harvest offset the losses and kept her on track to expand her home and set up a village shop.

Ruramiso Mashumba: Female agripreneurs on the rise in Zimbabwe

Agribusiness in Zimbabwe is dominated by men, of whom almost 70 percent are employers. Meanwhile, women are much more likely to work unpaid in agriculture than to be a paid full-time worker. Yet women like Ruramiso Mashumba are blazing a trail for more female agripreneurs. After returning to farming in Zimbabwe following her studies in Agriculture Business Management at the University of West England, Mashumba was elected as the national chair of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union Young Farmers’ Club in 2014. She also founded Mnandi Africa, an organisation that helps rural woman to combat poverty and malnutrition by empowering and equipping them with skills and knowledge in agriculture. 

Learn more about the rural women filling in the gender gap in agriculture at, or follow #FillTheGap on social media.

Keeping Ruminant Pests at Bay in Rural Ethiopia

Self Help Africa’s Livestock Market Development (LMD)Project began in 2013, and is working with 5,000 beneficiary farming families in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley to improve. Team Leader Kidanie Dessalegn blogs for Farming First about the vital work being carried out to keep ruminant pests under control, so that livestock keepers and farming families can thrive. 

Yederawork Defar makes her way through the gap in the wooden fence, and comes face to face with her next target. It sounds like it could be sinister but it is far from it.

Yederawork’s “targets” are the goats, cattle and other livestock that reside on this smallholder farm in the Malga district of southern Ethiopia’s SNNR Province. They are about to be administered an albendazole injection, a medication to treat them for, and immunise them from, various pests to which livestock in Ethiopia are commonly a host.

Yederawork’s job as an animal health assistant is to keep farm livestock healthy, productive and free from pests. And in rural, remote Ethiopia, keeping farm animals healthy and alive is vital – because of the nation’s overall reliance on agriculture.

Indeed, livestock is critical to this sector, as live animals and their products account for 40 per cent of the agricultural economy, in the country that has the largest livestock population in Africa.  Current estimates put the number of cattle in Ethiopia at over 43 million, sheep at 24 million, goats at 19 million and donkeys at 4.5million.

The fortunes of a high proportion of the Ethiopian economy effectively starts and ends, rises and falls, in line with the health of the agricultural sector. More than 70 per cent of low income families here are employed through agriculture, and it contributes up to 60 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the nation.

The Ethiopian Government knows this, and more than six years ago created the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) as a catalyst to modernize and drive  positive, transformational, and sustainable change of the sector.

For more than three decades, Self Help Africa has been working to improve agricultural productivity and performance to reduce poverty and increase food security in Ethiopia.

In my role with Self Help Africa, I am Team Leader for a five-year Livestock Market Development (LMD) project, backed by the US Government’s Feed the Future initiative as part of its commitment to Ethiopia’s agricultural growth. This scheme recognises the importance of livestock to the growth of agriculture, and the protection of animals against pests and disease is a critical part of its work.

We’re implementing the program together with quite a few partners and stakeholders, but we’re all pulling in the same direction – ending poverty, and enhancing growth and incomes in Ethiopia.

Recently, I joined Yederawork as she visited smallholder farmers in Manicho village, about an hour’s drive from Hawassa, the regional capital on the shores of Lake Awasa in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley. Manicho is one of seven villages covered by Yederawork in the local district.


A 38-year-old widow and mother-of-three who comes from the local area, Yederawork is one of more than 300 animal health assistants involved with the project – and importantly, she’s one of 80 women who fill the role of frontline veterinary health workers.

Gender is important here – a  strong representation of women on our team is helping to address a long-standing challenge facing Ethiopia’s farming sector – the diminished role that women have traditionally played on farms.

Yederawork says that no farmers she works with have an issue dealing with a woman animal health assistant. Rather, they are grateful for the visit and the attention given to their livestock – it makes no difference to them whether their animals are being seen by a man or a woman.

Yederawork, who visits between 150-200 households every month, says she enjoys a positive relationship with the farm families with whom she works. “Farmers have a positive attitude towards me. They respect me and give me their support, and some even say that they are grateful, because I show up on their farms at the time that I say that I will!” she said.

Treating ruminant pests is part of her everyday routine, with both endo and exo parasites, particularly tick and flea infestations, the most common problems.

Yederawork provides ivermectine injections for external parasites, or the aforementioned albendazole for internal ones. Sometimes, if the necessary equipment is available, extopore spray on barns will also be used in an attempt to eradicate external parasites.

The work she is doing is vital, as farmers in her locality have traditionally had little access to veterinary support at local level, and as a result, tick and pest-borne viruses and viral diseases have had a devastating impact on domestic livestock.

The level of care she and her colleagues can provide at village level has improved as a result of additional technical training they have received through the programme. They have also strengthened their skills, and can more easily identify diseases and diagnose appropriate treatments in a timely fashion.

“Through the programme, I also got the opportunity to visit and gain experience with private drug stores and veterinary clinics in the town, where I learned about vet equipment and treatments that I wasn’t aware of before. This has helped me in my role,” Yederawork said.

As I joined Yederawork on her rounds, we agreed that part of the effectiveness of the programme was down to how it provided farmers with training so that they too can play a role in intervening and treating their animals for pests.

“There are biological resources available locally that can help, and indigenous pesticides that can help,” she said. “They are inexpensive and, while sometimes not as effective as conventional pharmaceuticals, they can help support farmers to tackle a problem in the first instance.”

It is this approach – incorporating both farmer and animal health professionals – that has Yederawork and I confident that the programme will continue to improve and maintain the long-term health of Ethiopia’s rural livestock population in the years ahead.

This article originally appeared in WFO’s Farmletter.

Ray Jordan: A New Forum for Agricultural Development

In this guest post, Self Help Africa CEO Ray Jordan explains the mission of a new body, The Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development, which launched last week in Ireland.

It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who first coined the phrase that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

The expression was one that came to mind last week, at the launch of a new forum that aims to use the knowledge and learning of farming in Ireland to help to increase food production and end extreme hunger in poor regions of the world.

The Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD), which was launched in Dublin, brings together government ministries, state bodies, private business, agricultural research academics, farmers groups and others, including the country’s leading development organisations to lend our experience and know-how to the wider global challenge of producing food for the world’s growing population. Continue reading

#IamAg! Meet Mengistu Alemu, a Veterinary Technician from Ethiopia

This is the tenth post in our new series “I am Agriculture”, that showcases the many careers available to young people in agriculture. Today’s post comes from Mengistu Alemu, who is Veterinary Technician.

When I was a boy, I remember government workers from the Ministry of Agriculture coming to the village where I lived in the Northern Shoa District of Oromia on motorbikes to give technical support about farming methods. Coming from a family of farmers, I was impressed. I liked the work they did and I liked their motorbikes as well! At home we produced different crops, including barley, wheat and fava beans on our three acre farm, and also kept livestock – so I understood different aspects of farming. I was around cattle and different crops from a young age. I understood the work that was involved, and I also understood the challenges that farmers in Ethiopia faced. From an early age, I thought about a career in the farm advisory service.

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Farming First & CGIAR Side Event at EU Development Days 2016

15th June 2016, 4pm – 5.15pm

Room D5, Tour & Taxis

Brussels, Belgium

Join Farming First and CGIAR at our interactive session “Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals with Science” at the EU Development Days!

Our distinguished panel – moderated by BBC science & environment journalist Mark Kinver – will tell stories of science changing farmers’ lives Pecha Kucha style. Discussing 20 images for just 20 seconds each, our speakers will stimulate debate on how science can be harnessed to achieve many of the interlinked Sustainable Development Goals, including ending hunger, combatting climate change and empowering women.


Our Panel

Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR ConsortiumRijsberman2colorcropped

CGIAR is the largest agri-food research partnership in the world, made-up of 15 research centers with 10,000 staff in over 70 countries. Dr. Rijsberman leads the implementation of CGIAR’s vision through a portfolio of impact focused research programs dedicated to increasing food and nutrition security, reducing rural poverty, and protecting the environment.

I.Rae photoIsabella Rae, Head of Policy & Research, Self Help Africa

Dr. Rae has been working in the NGO sector for the past eight years, prior to which she worked with FAO, Bioversity International and WFP. She has experience in the design, elaboration and management of technical assistance projects, with particular emphasis on Central and Western Africa. She has published in areas of women rights, food security and governance, and the right to food.

Sona Ebai CroppedSona Ebai, Chief of Party, World Cocoa Foundation

Sona Ebai has spent the last 25 years in integrated rural regional development. Through his role at the World Cocoa Foundation/African Cocoa Initiative (WCF/ACI), he has been instrumental in fostering effective public and private sector models to support sustainable productivity and improved food security on diversified cocoa farms in West and Central Africa.

Kampmann, Willi - 3Willi Kampmann, Head of International Affairs, German Farmers’ Association (DBV)

Willi Kampmanm has worked with the German Farmers’ Association for 35 years and has headed the Brussels office since 2000, concentrating on European and international agricultural policy. He was responsible for creating the House of German Agriculture and Food Industry, together with  seven other German agricultural associations.

Our Moderator

160420 MKV colourMark Kinver, BBC Science & Environment Reporter

Mark Kinver has been reporting on science and environment issues for BBC News for ten years. As moderator for this event, Mark will help our panelists delve deeper into the issues raised, and let you have your say on the topics.



The European Development Days (EDD) are Europe’s leading forum on development and international cooperation. Organised by the European Commission, the forum brings the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.