Empowering women in agribusiness
The contribution of women in agriculture
The importance of women in agriculture and agribusiness cannot be overemphasised. Women make up about 43% of the total workforce in agriculture in African. The proceeds from the farm are transformed into income through agribusiness sales. It is estimated that the majority of the female workforce depends on agriculture as the main source of income. But this agro-industry is male-dominated and most women are barely able to make a decent living and survive. How might we make the Agriculture sector attractive to women so it’s seen not only as a daily activity and a way of life but as a source of income and an economic game-changer?
Women are the backbone of every growing economy because of their key role, especially in agriculture. This is even more so in Africa and in the rural areas. Engaging women in agriculture and later in agribusiness will help to improve not only their livelihood but also that of the society. According to FAO, educating rural African women in agriculture to produce high quality and nutritious food will have a great impact on their income, health, eating habits (nutrition), and society.
Engaging women in agriculture is one thing and in agribusiness is another. Most farming households in Africa are headed by women and with a challenge of acquiring land for farming. The policies in place in most cases do not actually favour women. The effect of climate change on productivity is making matters worse for women of which most of them highly dependent on agriculture for food production for a living. For these women, this has always been their way of life, inherited from the past generation. So how to encourage these women to see and take on agriculture as a business and not as a way of life? Help them become “market-ready” and use their profits to enhance food security and wellbeing as well as enhance and sustain their livelihoods?
Agribusiness women worth encouraging, but how?
First, create awareness about agriculture as a business and attract young agriculturalists into the sector. Unfortunately, agriculture has acquired a rather negative connotation – especially in Africa. More specifically it is perceived as a path, for the less educated, a dirty job because it is not mechanised and the product is for home consumption and very little for commercial purpose. Rallying and organising women in groups around agriculture is a noble thing to do because it creates that sense of commitment, continually, and ownership. For example, the Shea butter trade in East and West Africa is mostly done by women, where it is considered to be “women’s gold”. Organising women around this trade and branding the Shea butter in a way that meets international standards will help to secure these women a steady income and a ready market for their product. As such, they can add value and sell either in bulk or in ready-to-retail volumes and packaging like with EuroAfri Naturals.
Organise the women into groups – because “united we stand”. As a group, women can file for certification for their products and pay as a group instead of filing as an individual which can be expensive. Together, they can brand their products to meet regional and international market standards. Also, as a group, they can learn from each other and give voice to the voiceless among the group.
Train the women and the farming community on how to produce in an increasingly sustainable way that will help to protect the environment.
Help link the producers with a focus on women to enter key markets for their product be it local, regional, or international. With AfCFTA in place, it can help these women to reach new markets for their products and visibility concerning their product.
EuroAfri Link was created based on this notion of facilitating market linkages with a focus on women-run businesses and on youths. In Uganda, EuroAfri Link is working with EVICO Services Limited to organise women around Shea butter production and help brand their product to meet the EU market. What EAL does with their market linkages service in the EU is that with research-informed practices and expert market know-how, EuroAfri Link acts as the mediator in business transactions between the African producers/seller and the European off-takers/Buyers, this is done by ensuring that the business transaction process is smooth from initial contact to the delivery of the product and the eventual termination of contracts. We do not only link but also assist smallholder cooperatives and associations to acquire the knowledge, expertise, and skills required in order to ensure that their produce meets international standards. And this is done through working with trusted partners in Africa and EAL representatives.
By Jonathan S. Woods – Eukalypton, Evelyne Achieno – EVICO Service Limited & Patience Chindong – EAL