Globally, women’s contribute to agricultural development in various capacities as producers, labourers and marketers. They have an important role to play in agricultural development and food security through entrepreneurship. In developing countries women’s role as agriculture entrepreneurs is not fully explored and well recognized. Women entrepreneurs in agriculture are facing real challenges like access to financial resources, assets and training.
As per FAO estimates, women worldwide are responsible for more than half of all the food produced. This includes up to 80% of food production in African countries, 60% in Asia and between 30 and 40% in South America. This shows that main activity in which rural women’s are engaged is farming.
Again rural women’s are suffering from poverty due to small land holdings and subsistence farming. Gender bias and women’s low social standing due to the patriarchal nature of societies women’s are rarely legally or socially recognized as head of the farm. They are seldom granted land tenure rights and often have less access to essential production inputs such as: land; financial services; access to markets; storage; and technical support.
Agripreneurs in Rwanda
Rwanda is one of countries encouraging and supporting women entrepreneurs in Africa. According to the Global Gender Gap Report, Rwanda is ranked 6th globally in terms of closing gender gaps. The Government of Rwanda has made a strong political commitment to enhance gender equity and equality and is determined to implement in government policies at all levels. Rwanda is a signatory to international and regional legal instruments that protect the rights of women. The Government has also instituted legal instruments to protect gender equality.
Though doing well in many sectors, women’s in agriculture sector in Rwanda are still facing various challenges. The agriculture sector is worked mainly by poor women (86%) with lowest levels of schooling and highest rates of illiteracy (23.3%).
Women’s are practising subsistence agriculture. They receive low prices for their products due to lack of market intelligence. They lack capacities to participate in agri-business and are employed in lowly paid positions in secondary agriculture. All these result in a vicious cycle of poverty that transcend generations.
Encouraging women Agripreneurs could assist in solving challenges of gender inequality and poverty in Africa.
Situation in Africa
About 70% of the people in sub-Saharan Africa earn their income from agriculture. Unfortunately contribution of agriculture to GDP is below 50%. Based on studies Investment in agriculture is 11 times as effective in reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa compared with investment in other sectors.
In Africa women are more involved in farming than men’s but they are facing many challenges leading them to state of poverty. Women often accept and assume the magnitude of their duties and receive a minimal amount of recognition for their contributions. Despite of so many efforts of women empowerment, women’s in agriculture sector in Africa are still marginalised.
Over past few years women entrepreneurship activities in agriculture and other sectors have intensified. Their global business activities have grown by 10 per cent, reducing the gender gap by 5 per cent since 2014. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where women make up the majority of self-employed individuals.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor reported that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest percentage of female entrepreneurs in the world, defying the odds but only few of these women-owned businesses reach national and/or global stage.
World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) recognises the role of women farmers in global food security and advocates for the empowerment of women’s through technology and training.
Various studies support that if women’s are trained and provided tools of finance, technology, education and decision making they could contribute towards solving problem of food security, combating negative effect of climatic change and would help in enhancing exports.
Again, Women Agripreneurs empowered through imparting necessary skills need to be strengthened through policies. Women should be organised, provided training in specialised commercial agriculture sector like dairy farming, mushroom farming, floriculture, horticulture etc and also provided skills in food processing to diversify their income generating activities and reduce income uncertainty.
The writer is a Kigali based economist and consultant.
Photo: A business woman from Bugarama washes mangoes before taking them to the market