Women are major players in Africa’s agriculture sector, but have to overcome a number of hurdles in developing and running successful farming businesses. Providing packages of services, including access to land and finance, business skills, extension advisory services and effective markets will support more women entrepreneurs in carving a place in agribusiness, a thriving sector touted to unlock new jobs, higher incomes and more robust livelihoods.
With its vast potential, Africa’s agribusiness will reach €880 billion in value by 2030, and will be the continent’s ‘new oil’ according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Though largely unrecognised, women entrepreneurs are playing a key role in developing the agriculture sector, creating jobs and improving nutrition and food security. Many women agripreneurs have succeeded in increasing productivity and profitability. Rolling out a suite of services to reduce barriers faced by women will enhance their participation in agribusiness.
Skills and access to productive assets
Access to key productive assets by women is critical in agriculture, says anthropologist Deborah Rubin, who is co-founder of Cultural Practice, LLC a US-based consulting firm working on gender in agriculture, health, evaluation and monitoring. Productive assets are important in running a business in agriculture. For instance, a producer needs access to land to cultivate crops and raise animals. In addition, labour and capital are essential to running an agribusiness.
“One of the things that has been shown to work very well is when projects are able to do ‘bundling’, when they put together several different types of activities to provide information and technical services to women,” said Rubin who gave a presentation at the experience capitalisation activity hosted by CTA on ‘making next generation agriculture work for women’ in December 2018.
Some organisations working to support women are not just supplying credit to women, but are also offering them training in business development skills, and providing market linkages to businesses that will purchase their products or services.
Helping women to empower themselves
“Women have many challenges in accessing services or in reaching markets with their products, because they tend to have limited resources compared to men, even within the same community,” said Rubin. “The idea of providing these resources is to overcome those gender-based constraints. For example, land is a critical resource. Women have limited access to land. Women’s organisations try to provide ways for those women to farm as a cooperative, so they do not have to own the land, but still have access to it.”
Women’s roles are very diverse in agriculture, said Rubin.
“We have to look at the cultural context in the way in which production takes place. What is important is to see the cultural context as enabling, rather than as an impediment,” she said noting that the cultural context shapes the roles for both men and women. She added: “Women empower themselves. There is a role for policies and organisations to support the act of women empowering themselves, but in the end it is the women who have to take that responsibility, and who can act on it.”
This article was created through a CTA-led process to document and share actionable knowledge on 'what works' for ACP agriculture. It capitalises on the insights, lessons and experiences of practitioners to inform and guide the implementation of agriculture for development projects.