Stories tagged: women

OCT152018
International Day of Rural Women

15th October 2018

Global

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

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How Young Women Can Find Opportunities in African Agriculture

By Dace Mahanay, Regional Program Director at STRYDE.

Jennifer, a young mother from Gulu, Uganda, faced bleak prospects after her husband passed away. She had been kicked out of her home by her in-laws and had no job with which to support her family. Without a high school education, she was not optimistic about finding opportunities. “Even casual jobs were not easy to come by, because…not many economically engaging activities were taking place within my village,” she said.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, millions of young women like Jennifer are sidelined from economic opportunities. The International Labor Organization found that one third of young women in the region are not working, studying or receiving training, more than double the rate of their male peers. With more than 6 million young women coming of working age every year, African economies must create more new jobs and business opportunities for them.

But it’s a steep challenge. Across Africa, women generally have less access to education, training, financial services, and assets than men do. In Jennifer’s home country of Uganda, for instance, women own just 5 percent of the land, though they perform much of the labor on family farms. Cultural and traditional views of gender roles can also limit women’s opportunities. Addressing the problem, therefore, requires not only building individual capacity, but also changing the mindsets of families and communities and forging inclusive networks.

That is the mindset behind an entrepreneurship program that has trained tens of thousands of young people across Africa and is now helping local institutions adopt this approach: the Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program. Since 2011, Mastercard Foundation and TechnoServe have partnered on STRYDE to equip young people in rural communities across Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda with the business and personal skills they need to develop economic opportunities in their communities.

The results of the first phase of the project were striking: the 15,000 STRYDE graduates had achieved average income increases of 133 percent, with 96 percent of participants reporting increased savings. The percentage of “idle” youth (those neither working nor studying) fell by 80 percent. A second phase of the project, which will reach 48,000 additional young people by the time it is completed, is also showing positive results.

Importantly, both female and male graduates have exhibited significant gains. The success of women in the STRYDE program can be attributed to three main factors:

Building skills and personal effectiveness

STRYDE participants receive three months of training on business skills, like saving and managing finances, but also on “soft skills”, like personal effectiveness and goal-setting. The participants also receive nine months of tailored “aftercare” and mentorship support to reinforce the content of the training and support youth in opportunity identification. This focus on both hard and soft skills is especially important for women, who typically receive little encouragement to think entrepreneurially.

Jennifer moved back with her parents and enrolled in the STRYDE program. She soon began to see economic opportunities all around her.

“As a family, we had a chunk of land. But I had never thought of agriculture as business, but for only growing food for household consumption,” Jennifer said. After receiving training, she asked to use an acre of her brother’s idle land to try her hand at commercial farming. Now, she earns more than $800 per harvest season from her eggplants, okra, and tomatoes, and she can pay for her children’s school fees. “My children are now assured of a better future thanks to the knowledge and skills that I acquired during the training,” she said.

Engaging families

In some households, husbands, parents, and in-laws view women’s roles as primarily domestic, and do not see why young women should attend training, work outside the home, or access family resources for a business. In many cases, these family members exercise a sort of veto power over the ambitions of women.

As a result, STRYDE has worked to engage both men and women on the issue of gender. A training module – “We Can Fly” –  helps participants understand the impact of gender norms and highlights concrete benefits of women and men both contributing economically and making decisions together.

In Rwanda, for instance, a STRYDE participant named Philippe decided to start a new business growing and selling vegetables alongside his wife. He asked her to go into business with him, he explained, because of how the program had changed his ideas around gender. Previously, he thought a woman’s role was at home. After seeing the success that female STRYDE participants were achieving in their businesses, however, he realized that his wife could also contribute to the family’s income.

Building strong networks and access to markets

Farmers and entrepreneurs need access to customers and suppliers, as well as mentors and peers who can offer advice. Unfortunately, in rural Africa, women tend to have fewer of these linkages.

The STRYDE program takes several steps to address this. First, the mixed-gender training encourages male and female participants to build connections. Because men tend to have larger business networks at the beginning, the female STRYDE participants can take advantage of those linkages. The program’s aftercare component is also designed to improve access to networks and markets–for example, by providing young women with tradeskills training from established entrepreneurs or introducing participants to outgrower schemes.

Networks were key to the success of Rose, a STRYDE graduate in Kenya. Before joining the program, Rose worked in her uncle’s agrovet shop. But after going through the training, she decided to go into business herself.

With her new business skills, Rose was able to successfully apply for a small loan to start her own agrovet store. She credits the program with strengthening her communication and negotiation skills, which helped her attract customers. She now supplies animal feeds to two cooperatives, an important source of income for her. ““I am now able to pay school fees for my   three siblings, who are still in school. I am happy to have lessened the burden of raising my young brothers and sisters on my mother, a single mother who really struggled to put us through school,” she said.

The impact of gender equality

Women entrepreneurs like Rose are not only helping themselves and their families; they are also providing essential services for others. This proves an essential point: empowering women economically not only benefits individuals and communities, but society as a whole. According to a UNDP report, closing the gender gap in pay and access to paid work would add an extra $95 billion to the economies of sub-Saharan Africa every year.

By equipping women with the right skills and mindset, addressing gender norms in households and communities, and ensuring that women have access to networks and markets, we can help close that gap.

This article originally appeared on the Chicago Council’s Food for Thought blog.

Agricultural Businesses Are the Key to “Decent Work” in Rural Communities

Decent agricultural work can be a vehicle for economic growth. Kristin Williams, Communications Manager at Root Capital, tells Farming First how investments can empower smallholder farmers.

Farming is hard work. This is especially true on the world’s 500 million smallholder farms, which rely almost entirely on informal family labor. There, farmers rise before the sun, and toil in plots of land just large enough to grow food for the table and perhaps one or two crops for sale. Sudden shockslike drought, flood, or diseasecan wipe out the fruits of their labor in an instant. If they’re lucky, they can get their crops to a nearby market; once there, they have little recourse if buyers refuse to give a fair price.

Billions of people make their living in this difficult way. And it’s no coincidence that they comprise much of the world’s extreme poor, surviving on less than $2 per day. But the connection between farming and poverty is not a foregone conclusion. Yes, farming is hard work; but with targeted investments it can also be “decent work.”

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Monica Maigari: My Message on the International Day of Rural Women

To celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, we interviewed Monica Maigari, a Nigerian farmer who has been named a “Female Food Hero” by Oxfam. Monica spoke at the session “Food Security in Crisis” at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa.

FF: How did you begin your career as a farmer?

MM: I was first introduced to farming as an elementary student. The teachers would take us to the countryside in the evening where we would work in the gardens and learn about farming. I took an interest and learned much. After marriage, my husband and I as teachers made little money. So I began farming to supplement our income.

FF: What are the challenges farmers face in your region?

MM: In our region, one of the main difficulties is access to the equipment that can make our agriculture less labour intensive. In addition, reliable access to improved seeds and inputs can be a real challenge. Finally, for women, the right to inherit and have title to land is difficult.

FF: Is climate change affecting your region?

MM: Yes. The main difference is in the timing and duration of the annual rainy season. One year the rains may come late; the next year they may be very early. For example, farmers in my region of Kaduna state usually plant rice in July to coincide with the annual rains. However, this year the rains came early and our rice harvest will be very small.

FF: How have you overcome these challenges?

MM: I have sought out education and worked to develop test plots that not only help me to try new techniques and seeds, but also help other women to learn more modern practices of farming – in seed spacing, rotation with legumes, and moisture retention.

FF: Do you think women face more difficulties than male farmers? 

MM: Yes. Women especially have difficulty in have secure access to land. Men are most often the landowners in the family, so if a woman is widowed she often cannot inherit the land. And yet, women are the majority of those that work the land and produce the crops, but often have the least ability to obtain credit. In addition, many extension programs are directed to men, and women are not as accepted.

FF: How have you overcome these difficulties?

MM: Like other Female Food Heroes, I have worked to form women’s groups where we share knowledge, and create opportunities for work and added value in our crops. Women mentoring and working with other women is a powerful tool.

FF: How did you get involved in the Female Food Hero Competition?

MM: A local organization came to my community with an application for the Nigeria Ogbonge Woman completion sponsored in part by Oxfam. I applied and out of over 1,200 women, I was one of twelve finalists. I then went on to take a 2nd position. Using the proceeds from that initiative, I was able to purchase the land I farmed, work as an advocate for small-scale women farmers in my region and also in other countries like Ethiopia and the U.S.

FF: How did it feel to win the competition?

MM: At first I had no words. I was the only woman winner from my state of Kaduna. I am happy that my winning is allowing me to help other women farmers, and advocate for the rights to land and the need to address climate change.

FF: What are your hopes for the future of your farm?

MM: I hope that I can continue to improve and add value to my farm, so that as I get older I will be able to sell it to another farmer and be able to use that money to benefit other women, my community, and the world.

FF: What is your message to other female farmers on International Day of Rural Women?

MM: My message is that women must join together to build a better food system, and to advocate for our rights to land, tools, and education.

Prabhu Pingali: Women’s Groups as Conduits Towards Resilient Communities

Our guest author, Prabhu Pingali, Professor of Applied Economics & Director of the Tata-Cornell Agriculture & Nutrition Initiative at Cornell University, continues our series of blog articles on resilience published in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the conference Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” 15-17 May 2014.

Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are becoming ubiquitous across rural India.  There are currently around 3 million registered women’s SHGs in the country. These groups are becoming integral to the lasting resilience of its rural food systems and communities, and can provide some useful lessons for the rest of the developing world.

Initially set up for facilitating microfinance, SHGs are now playing an important role as conduits of overall empowerment of rural women in India, giving women the strength to create change that they could not have been able to achieve individually, in terms of access to finance, environmental stewardship, and even political empowerment.

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IN ACTION

This year I have visited many groups that demonstrated the impact women’s SHGs are having on building a resilient community. In Gufu for example, a village located a few hours outside of Ranchi, Jharkand, we visited an SHG that was helping women break their dependence on local moneylenders and stop selling valuable assets (often land) when they needed access to credit. It began life as a savings and loans group and is now operating a cooperative store selling seed and fertilizer and has helped its members purchase irrigation pumps for their land.

The leader of an SHG in Kunti, a neighboring area to Gufu, told us proudly, “We now have a bank account and I go to the bank to manage the account. I never went into a bank before I started with this group.  I always thought banks were for people with money. We have money now.” This new sense of confidence has women increasing their participation in village-level meetings and talking about their aspirations to run for local government offices.

In Jharkand we visited PRADAN, an NGO that has a long track record of working with women’s groups. PRADAN was helping one rural community improve the supply of water to its drinking water wells by changing the way it uses land on the upper watershed. The women in the community participated in mapping the watershed, in making decisions on cropping pattern changes, and in implementing the change.  Today perennials have replaced annual crops in the upper watershed, soil erosion has reduced significantly and well water is available throughout the year, even during the peak summer months.

NOT ALL SELF HELP GROUPS ARE SUCCESSFUL

The evolution of SHGs from savings and loans groups to become an access point for political decisionmaking and natural resource management is truly astounding – but not all groups are able to step up to taking on the broader development and local governance challenges.  So what makes an SHG flounder or flourish?

Many of the groups we visited lacked leadership or managerial skills, or exhibited poor group cohesion.  In many cases, the leaders were overburdened by numerous and competing demands from the various development projects that are trying to use the SHGs for accomplishing their objectives. All too often, external organizations, eager to see change, have elected to channel projects through SHGs. They are perhaps unaware of how the splintering of limited time and resources of SHG women might undermine the capacity for SHGs to manage their own affairs, a fundamental dimension for change.

FOCUS ON GROUP BUY-IN AND OWNERSHIP

Institutions, donors, and organizations looking to leverage the power and potential of SHGs should be optimistic, but keep in mind the ultimate goal of enhancing women’s empowerment and opportunity. Individual ”buy-in” and group ownership of decisions are vital to ensuring that SHGs are a platform to facilitate transformative change that will build a more resilient community.

As development agencies, researchers, or practitioners, we need to proceed with caution so as not to undermine the potential of SHGs. Equipping SHGs with the financial and managerial resources they need to meet goals determined by the group and forgoing projects that could highlight the differences amongst women (educated versus non-educated, young versus old) will remain critical principles of practice.

Certainly, it will require a more nuanced view of SHGs, one that looks at them as organizations on a pathway to determining their own future rather than simply vehicles for project implementation that can provide heartwarming stories about women.

 

This blog article is part of an ongoing series on resilience being published ahead of an upcoming IFPRI conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014. Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, not only helping them to “bounce back” but also to become better off. This conference aims to help set priorities for building resilience, to evaluate emerging threats to resilience, and to draw lessons from humanitarian and development responses to previous shocks.

MAR202014
#AskAg Twitter Chat: Empowering Women at the Head of Family Farms

Thursday 20th March, 11am – 12pm EDT on Twitter

Join the conversation!

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. But who is at the head of these family-farming households? Research from the FAO has found that up to 40% of households are headed by women in Eastern Africa, and across the developing world, women account for 60 to 80% of smallholder farmers.

Yet these women face economic and social constraints. 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?

Join experts from USAID and global agriculture coalition Farming First on Twitter at 11am EDT on Thursday 20th March to debate the issues with our experts:

sylvia-cabus-usaid

Sylvia Cabus is the gender advisor for the Bureau of Food Security at USAID and for the Feed the Future Initiative. She worked for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Kenya, Morocco, Mali,and Burkina Faso. In the United States, Sylvia worked as a program officer with Heifer International, Handicap International, and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

 

stephanie-hanson-one-acre-fund

Stephanie Hanson is the director of policy and outreach at One Acre Fund, where she manages the government relations and policy team and One Acre Fund’s global policy and advocacy work. From 2006 to 2009, she covered economic and political development in Africa and Latin America for CFR.org, the website of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

 

susan-carlson-wfo

Sue Carlson has been a farmer and family farm advocate much of her life. She currently serves as Facilitator and Chairperson of the World Farmers Organisation Women’s Committee, a GAP Catalyst for the Global Funding and Research Gender in Agricultural Partners, and serves on the Shamba Partnership Board. Over the years she has traveled to nearly 40 different countries advocating for family farmers. 

 

thembi-fanrpan

Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba is a Project Manager with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). She coordinates the FANRPAN Youth and Gender Programme Portfolio, aimed at developing a holistic agriculture policy framework in Africa that will support engagement of youth and women in the agriculture sector. 

 

Questions to be addressed:

  1. What challenges do women in family farming face in the developing world, and what do they need to thrive?
  2. How can we reach more women farmers worldwide with tools and skills they need?
  3. What are the success stories that show the benefits of investing in rural women? How do we measure this success?
  4. How do we identify and empower male allies in the quest to improve women-run family farms?
  5. Women farmers are often both the breadwinners and the bread bakers. How do we improve the nutritional status of family farms?

If you have additional questions you’d like to ask our experts, tweet @Agrilinks or @farmingfirst using the #AskAg hashtag!