Digitalisation innovations have potential to transform the agricultural sector. Technology is already being harnessed to improve efficiency across the value chain – from the farm to the consumer.
Though digitalisation offers ample opportunities to improve rural livelihoods, women are in danger of being left behind. In fact, women are 14% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which means that they have more limited access to the mobile phone-enabled services that are helping farmers to stay informed, receive financial support and reach higher-value markets.
CTA’s involvement in agriculture’s digitalisation across Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP), means that the organisation is uniquely placed to address the widening gender gap in the ICT for agriculture sector.
Promoting women’s leadership in e-agribusiness
In March 2018, on International Women’s Day, CTA launched a programme called VALUE4HER, which aims to increase the prosperity of women in agriculture by linking them to international buyers and markets. Senior Technical Adviser of Value Chains & Agribusiness at CTA, Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, explains: “There are a lot of opportunities around the use of ICTs to offer services in agriculture… [opportunities which] we would like women to benefit from so that they can get more value.” VALUE4HER will build women’s capacity in terms of leadership and business skills and teach them how to operate in the international marketplace. Barriers to women’s participation in the ICT for agriculture sector are not just an issue at the farmer level, women are also underrepresented in the development of ICT solutions and e-agribusinesses, as well as in the formation of data policy.
CTA has experience of supporting young entrepreneurs to build successful ICT-enabled agribusinesses via programmes like Pitch AgriHack, which offers entrepreneurs business training, mentorship, incubation and networking opportunities. This year’s Pitch AgriHack competition focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs in the ICT for agriculture space: 50% of the selected start-ups are led by women. “To ensure that these young people, especially women, reach their full potential it is imperative that we equip them with the skills and opportunities needed to progress a sustainable and productive agri-food sector,” CTA’s director Michael Hailu stresses. Pitch AgriHack entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to pitch their e-agribusinesses to political and business leaders in Rwanda at the African Green Revolution Forum in September 2018.
Creating an enabling policy environment for women’s data usage
An increase in the number of women-led e-agribusinesses needs to come hand-in-hand with more inclusive policies for agricultural data usage and efforts to build women’s capacity to use this data to address food security and nutrition challenges. CTA is therefore supporting the GODAN Action Project, which aims to build the capacity of a range of stakeholders, particularly women, in using open data to develop solutions for increased agricultural productivity and resilience. As part of this project, CTA intends to publish in 2018 a special issue of ICT Update that will bring together a collection of women to analyse the issues related to women’s access to ICTs for agriculture and present recommendations to the open data community.