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Working with women

Women are the backbone of Africa's farming workforce, yet life for rural women isn't easy.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of agricultural production is by smallholder farmers. And the female share of the agricultural labour force is the highest in the world.

But rural women face an array of challenges. Women don’t have the same rights as men, and often have to juggle domestic duties and agricultural work - sowing, weeding and harvesting crops, but also making food for their families and collecting firewood and water.

Despite bearing the brunt of arduous field work, it can be much harder for women to achieve the same results on their farms as men do.

Women often have lower access to land, training, markets and quality seeds. In Africa, women receive only 2-5% of agricultural extension services, which provide the technical advice, inputs and services needed for farming.

They typically have little decision-making power in their own households and few opportunities to participate in the community. Ultimately, women are more likely to live in poverty than men.

Empowering women is a central part of our work – and has been shown to have wider benefits as well. When women prosper, they tend to invest more in their homes and families, giving their children more nutritious food, keeping them healthy and sending them to school.

In fact, investing in rural women doesn’t only have the power to transform lives on a family level; it also has the power to boost food security on a global scale. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that if women were given the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase the yields on their farms by 20-30% - which would in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by around 12-17%.

In the following video, Mary Temu, a smallholder farmer receiving support from Farm Africa in the Babati District of Tanzania, explains to NFU President and Farm Africa ambassador Minette Batters some of the challenges female farmers face in eastern Africa, and how she has become empowered through working with Farm Africa. 

Farm Africa works to understand the challenges that women face in their local contexts and adapts programmes to fit these conditions. This means:

  • Involving women in selling their produce, giving them more financial independence and a better idea of market prices so they can adapt their farming businesses accordingly
  • Setting up women’s savings and loans groups, so that women have access to funds to invest in setting up small businesses
  • Running training sessions at times when women can attend them and providing crèche facilities
  • Supporting women with agricultural projects that they can run from their homes, such as beekeeping and raffia weaving
  • Encouraging women to join cooperatives and take up leadership positions within them.

By opening up new opportunities for women, we help them to develop new streams of income and work their way out of poverty. And when women have more economic empowerment and more opportunities, it helps the whole community to grow and prosper.

And that’s why our work with women is so important. Because equality for women really is progress for all.

Watch our webinar with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women to explore the state of entrepreneurship for women working in agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa here. We discuss Farm Africa’s work with women smallholder farmers in Tanzania and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s work empowering women to start, grow and sustain successful businesses.

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