Stories tagged: women

Four Priorities for Gender-Responsive Agricultural Policies

Dorine Odongo

Dorine Odongo, Senior Communications Manager at African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), outlines four key priorities for food systems’ policy to better support women in Africa as the continent contends with the impacts of climate change and conflict.

Recurring shocks including drought and wars are worsening the food crisis and the gender divide in agriculture, thus damaging efforts toward food security.

Progress toward developing context-specific, gender-responsive innovations for women smallholders to improve production must urgently be accelerated. To do so, technologies that respond to women’s needs must be developed and adopted to help transform Africa’s food systems.

Implementing gender-responsive policies and ensuring the participation of more women in the policymaking processes can tilt the scale towards equitable food systems. In fact, government policies can enable or constrain women’s success in the agricultural sector. Well-designed and -implemented agricultural policies can conversely help close the gender gap.

Here are four priorities that can set the world toward a sustainable pathway for gender-responsive agricultural policies.

Women in leadership

First, improving women’s participation in leadership is key to building sustainable agri-food systems in Africa. Governments have an important role to play in doing so, especially through fostering political representation and increasing opportunities for women. Equal representation of men and women in decision-making positions can lead to more gender-intentional strategies and policies. Beyond this, equipping women with the right tools when they get to leadership positions is also crucial.

Access and communication

Second, the way policies that benefit women are presented and communicated must be re-evaluated to ensure widespread access to information. Although the use of digital communications is prevalent, data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization shows that substantial gender gaps in mobile and digital access still exist. For this reason, access to information through a variety of communication frameworks can help to ensure that existing gender gaps are not exacerbated. Such frameworks must take into account users’ ability to access and understand the messaging, including the language used, especially for rural women.

Finance and land rights

Third, gender-responsive policies should not be limited to agricultural production but rather should cut across the entire agricultural value chain including agri-finance, agro-processing, access to inputs and research. Globally, less than 15 per cent of all landholders are women. This gender gap can also affect financial services, as policies that address women’s access to financial services will not yield much without policies in place for land rights and tenure for women. As gender equality often arises from systemic issues, a holistic approach is needed to promote gender-responsive policies.

Strategic partnerships

Fourth, strategic partnerships play an important role in facilitating gender-responsive agricultural practices and policies in Africa. Such partnerships can be effective in promoting inclusive, sustainable farming practices and consequently improving livelihoods.

In 2018, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) partnered with African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) to address its gender gap and launched the EIAR Institutional Fellowship. This career development initiative paired young, newly recruited female researchers with senior researchers as part of a structured mentoring programme. The Fellowship not only fostered intergenerational learning but also contributed to an institution-wide culture of supporting the development of young talent.

In addition, the EIAR-AWARD partnership designed a set of interventions to help develop the leadership and research capacity of female researchers and raise awareness among senior leadership around gender-responsive research. This partnership has firmly grounded institutional mechanisms to support gender parity and systematic integration of gender in their systems and processes.

Filling the gender gap in agriculture

Effective gender-responsive policies must be clearly documented, as well as the ways to measure progress and impact after implementation. The biggest hurdles in achieving such policies result from a lack of understanding of what such policies are and what they should generate. This then leads to low commitment, funding and implementation.

At a 67th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) side event, it emerged that successful gender-responsive policies require actors to consider the interconnectedness of existing barriers and the underlying causes of gender gaps. This is why it is important to highlight how existing agri-food policies might be exacerbating the problem and create a common understanding among policymakers.

Some global initiatives, such as the World Committee on Food Security, can serve as a reference point to assess progress by mobilising action toward a global framework on gender equality and empowerment. Such an internationally agreed tool can help reduce the gender gaps in agri-food systems.

Similarly, AWARD and its partners are addressing some of these priorities. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), AWARD’s Gender Responsive Agriculture Systems Policy (GRASP) Fellowship aims to catalyse policy change that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture and food systems.

The GRASP Fellowship will grow a pool of African women policy professionals, who are confident, resilient and capable of leading policy change processes to improve food security and contribute to positive livelihood outcomes.

Equipping policy practitioners with the skills and resources to influence agri-food policies to reduce barriers that women face in accessing financial services, land tenure, extension services and more is one of the sure ways to sustain the momentum towards inclusive agri-food systems.

Building the Resilience of Smallholder Women Farmers in India

Headshot of Reema Nanavaty

Reema Nanavaty, Director of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), discusses the ways women can be better empowered in agriculture.

Women are the backbone of marginal farmer households in India. They work hard in the field, prepare meals, raise children, tend to animals and maintain the household. Given their intrinsic tendency to put family first, women are also the most affected during crises. Yet, these women are not often recognised formally as farmers. Continue reading

Women and Youth Take on “Man’s Crop” Coffee in Uganda

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March, Sam Viney, Communications and Advocacy Officer at Farm Africa, explores how access to land and inputs can include women and youth in Uganda’s coffee boom.

I’m in my twenties but whenever I go to Uganda it makes me feel old! The world’s second youngest country’s median age is 15, and 77% of the population is below 30.

Every day, hundreds of young Ugandans hit the job market. Many find employment, but often not.  

Unemployment in Uganda is rising and young people shoulder the burden. In 2015, one in three young Ugandans was unemployed. When young people find work it’s normally insecure, part-time or unpaid family work. Women are more likely to be unemployed than men.

Uganda’s young people are full of entrepreneurial spirit, and never fail to fill me with confidence in the country’s future. Providing 70% of the country’s employment opportunities and contributing more than half of all exports, agriculture is Uganda’s most obvious vehicle to unleash their potential.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Opportunity is brewing

Uganda’s employment challenge is coupled with rising demand for their most lucrative export: coffee.

There is huge demand for the caffeinated treat, and Kanungu’s tropical climate, in south-western Uganda, provides the perfect conditions to grow it. This should bring opportunities.

Despite this huge potential, limited access to land and low profits stop youth and women from investing in coffee production.

With co-funding from the European Union, the international NGO  has launched a project in Kanungu that develops young people’s skills and links to markets, and helps them gain access to the land they need to become successful coffee entrepreneurs.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Access to land

Like many young Ugandans, Gillian and Dan need more land. The couple has a one-acre coffee farm that they received from Dan’s father Murisa.

Their annual income of £266 “isn’t enough”. If they had more land they’d be able to provide their son, who suffers from life-threatening fits, with much needed medical care.

Dan’s parents could afford to give Gillian and Dan a portion of their 45-acre farm but Murisa isn’t keen on the idea.

In Uganda, land is seen a man’s asset, the eldest man in the family doesn’t like to cede control over land or agricultural decisions to women or younger men.

“Agriculture employs 93% of Kanungu’s residents. Land is in the hands of older men. Youth face hardship accessing land, young women doubly so.” Martin Atukwase, General Secretary of Kanungu Ugandan Young Farmers’ Association. “No land, no opportunity.”

Youth need access to and control over land to invest in coffee. Coffee plants take around five years to bear fruit so young farmers need to start planting early on in their careers to see economic returns later in life.

Farm Africa has helped set up the Kanungu chapter of the Ugandan Young Farmers’ Association. The young leaders were provided with advocacy training, and are calling for greater access to land for women and young people.

The young leaders have hit the ground running, working with TV and radio stations, and organising intergenerational meetings to change fathers’ minds about land.

Land agreements

Farm Africa’s staff in Kanungu are working with families to create agreement amongst family units about land access issues.

These conversations are sensitive. Land is a delicate subject. Uganda has seen a spate of deaths involving young men killing other family members over access to family land.

Many fathers recognise youth and women’s need for land but worry that equipping them with land will undermine their authority and lead to the sale of family land.

Farm Africa sensitively allays these fears by working with fathers and other household members to develop voluntary land use agreements.

The content of the agreements is decided upon by the family. In general, agreements look to provide young people and women with access to and control over what’s grown on a piece of land for a specific period of time. Agreements normally stipulate that the occupant cannot sell land.

These agreements provide young people and women with the opportunity to invest in their businesses and future. The process hopes to kickstart a journey that sees young people go from being job seekers to job creators.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Improve quality

Kanungu’s coffees could be amongst the best in the world but poor farming practices and processing mean that farmers produce low quality coffee, relegating their produce to cheap instant coffee, and other sub-par, markets.

The project is training 4,800 people to grow and process quality coffee and gain access to more lucrative markets.

Many farmers are selling coffee for as little as 10p a kilogram, if they improved coffee quality they could be selling at £2 a kilogram locally in Kanungu and upto £4 a Kilogram in the international markets

In a context of shrinking farm sizes, providing people with the skills and resources necessary to maximise land use and produce quality coffee that fetches a good price is extremely important.

It also makes the land access ask easier: give skilled people the chance to enter a profitable market, unlocking profits that will benefit the whole family.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Coffee, a man’s crop?

In Kanungu, coffee is seen as a man’s crop. Men sell the cash crop and pocket the earnings, while women do the majority of the agricultural work and see little, if any, of the profits.

Farm Africa plans to launch a new project in September 2019 to complement the existing work.  

Made possible by matched funding from the UK government for Farm Africa’s recently launched Coffee is Life appeal, the new project will provide women with the support they need to become actively involved in coffee cooperatives and earn a fair share of coffee production profits.

The project will help women move from providing menial labour harvesting coffee to assuming positions of responsibility actively involved in adding value to the coffee, marketing it and securing good prices from the international speciality coffee market.

Featured photo credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Sustainable Pasture Practices Double Milk Production in Colombia

By adopting environmentally-friendly pasture management methods, female dairy farmers can unlock a dormant cattle industry, Jessica Joye writes on behalf of Fintrac. 

La Montañita, a small town located in southwest Colombia, is an area rich in biodiversity and home to two of the country’s largest waterways. However, despite these ecological benefits, the region has been plagued by violence, illicit crop production, and rampant deforestation.

Given the region’s long history of cattle ranching, USAID’s Producers to Markets Alliance (PMA) program, implemented by Fintrac, is partnering with the Association for Economic Solidarity of Central and Lower Cagúan (ASOES) to establish Sustainable Pasture Divisions (DSPs) for 565 rural dairy farmers. DSP is an environmentally-friendly pasture management method based on rotational grazing and pasture divisions. Cattle are placed into pens with high-nutrient fodder grass to restrict overfeeding on one particular area of land. The pens are rotated seasonally as new grass is planted and appropriate for grazing. This method helps cattle optimize nutritional benefits from grass and increase milk production while also ensuring other vegetation is safe from overfeeding.

Flor Maria Gutiérrez Laguna is one of 149 women who are becoming leaders in their community by adopting new methodologies such as DSPs. Flor Maria began with 26 hectares of land divided into four lots; working with ASOES and PMA, she put three hectares under the DSP methodology and quickly began to see an increase in milk productivity thanks to improved access to water for her herd, as well as less damage to her pasture from grazing.

Upon seeing these results, she invested more than $1,000 of her own funds to implement DSP practices on the rest of her land. She also invested in a cement structure to elevate her aqueduct and improve her drinking stations, which she installed with PMA assistance. These improvements have saved her up to two hours per day in water collection – time she can now dedicate to other income-generating activities.

The impact of these activities on her quality of life has been significant.

“Thanks to the program, I have doubled my production. Before, I averaged about 25 liters per day with my 15 dairy cows, and now I am selling 50 liters per day,” she says.

“The extra income helped me invest in more materials for my farm, but most importantly, it has helped me pay for my son’s engineering school, a dream that had been put on hold until recently.”

PMA is bringing hope and opportunity to a region previously plagued with violence and illegality, offering new technologies and effective methods of production for Caquetá’s dairy farmers, empowering them to build a sustainable economic path for future generations.

Featured photo credit: Fintrac/Jessica Joye. Flor Maria Gutierrez Laguna is working with Fintrac’s PMA program to implement improved pasture practices for her 15-cow herd. Since adopting these new methods, she’s seen milk production double. She’s investing her additional income into farm and home improvements as well as her family’s education.


International Day of Rural Women

15th October 2018


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.”