Experts at the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) have reiterated through various interactions, research findings and consultations that gender is a missing link in agriculture development, especially in market oriented agriculture development activities.
The key issues faced by women in all aspects of agriculture, including dairy farming, be it in Africa or elsewhere in the developing world are primarily the same. Inspite of playing a key role in the marketing, processing and ensuring of household nutrition, they have relatively lesser access to resources, assets, technologies and inputs as compared to their male counterparts. Often, they even lack control over the products of their own labour.
With growing awareness, evidence and concerted efforts of NGOs and government agencies, there is a push towards creating greater equity for women engaged in agriculture, including dairy farming. There is acknowledgement of the fact that increasing the resources and assets controlled by women would have positive impacts on agricultural productivity.
Now more than ever before is a call to action for engaging men and the communities women live in, to address gender inequalities in agriculture and women’s empowerment. Based on EADD’s work in Africa, specifically with women farmers, here are ten recommendations that according to them must be implemented market oriented agriculture settings. This will help achieve women’s economic empowerment. Interestingly, these would apply to not just Africa but also other resource constrained and gender biased settings like India.
1. Start with gender analysis: Understand roles, priorities and constraints of men and women in agriculture and in value chains. Identify constraints women face and the opportunities for increasing their participation and benefits from agricultural value chains and have specific strategies to address these. These could be for increasing their access to technologies, inputs, financial services, high value markets among other things.
2. Engage both men and women to address gender inequalities in agriculture: These must recognise the context in which women are operating and deal with to find solutions that are more successful and sustainable.
3. Focus on multiple enterprises and multiple markets; Look at formal and informal markets and commodities that are in the domain of women giving them greater control of income alongside their husbands, empowering them and leading to improved livelihoods for whole families. The choice of markets and commodities should however also be informed by profitability, competitiveness and market demand and not solely on the fact that they are good for women otherwise they can confine women to low profit, informal markets.
4. Strengthen capacity especially for women to understand and engage with markets: Build on existing knowledge and strengthen capacity to understand markets, especially with skills like negotiation, pricing, market requirements, product quality, value addition among others.
5. Strengthen social capital and collective action: Working with women groups has been shown to be an effective mechanism to increase women’s participation and benefits from markets. Groups provide an important channel for information, inputs, technologies and financial services. For majority of women, being in groups increases their bargaining power, helping them build savings and investments.
6. Engage women and men in research that helps them to respond to markets and stay competitive: Use of new and improved technologies can help smallholder farmers say competitive in markets. Women need to be involved in the design of these technologies and services to ensure they are accessible and appropriate for their use. Women’s access and use of improved management and technological tools will determine whether they stay or get pushed out of agricultural markets.
7. Increase access to inputs, assets and services including financial services: There has to be more innovation in increasing access to services and inputs by women. Support for financial services that do not require physical collateral have provided women with impetus to invest in enterprises. In market oriented agriculture, payment services that use technologies more accessible to women have more access to such as mobile services, village banking etc.
8. Look beyond production: Women play important roles in production, but also in processing and as service providers for agriculture services and inputs. Strengthening their capacity in these areas has great potential for increasing their economic empowerment.
9. Promote women: Those women who have been successful in engaging and benefitting from market oriented agriculture at farm and at agribusiness level must be promoted, recognised, facilitated and held up as examples
10. Study impact: The impact of gender sensitive initiatives must be studied with respect to food security, nutrition, health and the impact this distribution has on men, women, children, families and the communities as a whole.
East Africa Dairy Development News. Celebrating our Women Dairy Farmers [Internet]. 2011 March; Vol 7 [cited 2015 Oct 6]. Available from: http://9dc3f407a257cfd3f7ea-d14ef12e680aa00597bdffb57368cf92.r6.cf2.rackcdn.com/Success_Stories/East_Africa_Dairy_News.pdf