According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the majority of employed women in the world’s poorest countries work in agriculture. It is understood that over 60% of all employed women in sub-Saharan Africa also work in this sector. However, the majority of these women are subsistence farmers and are unable to scale their activities due to various social and economic factors – many of which make their gender a key issue.
Some of the largest barriers relate to: (1) land ownership where the woman farmer frequently does not own the land she farms (it belongs to a male family or community member); (2) gender-based bias in the economic system; and (3) entrenched gender norms.
Women are “agents of change”
A recent (2020) study by the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA) revealed that patriarchal and cultural norms remain as barriers for females to gain market access in agriculture. Nonetheless, the World Bank Group regards women as “agents of change for the global food system” and “the link between the farm and the table” in support of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (zero hunger).
Indeed, a Limpopo-based study published in the South African Journal of Agricultural Extension found that “…women are major contributors to agriculture and play a primary role in ensuring the food security and nutritional status of their household members. Their level of participation and involvement both in terms of time and number of days they spend doing farm work exceed that of men”.
With these factors in mind, it is of paramount importance that women in agriculture receive the requisite support and upliftment in order to get the recognition they deserve, become greater forces for food security, and agents of economic growth.
High knowledge-based barriers to entry
Over and above gender norms and cultural issues, both agriculture and business are knowledge intensive fields, with technology, economic trends, and various other factors forming hurdles. This means that for females attempting to scale and run commercial agricultural operations, the knowledge-based barriers to entry are high as regards the confluence of business and agricultural practices/processes.
A customised programme for women agripreneurs
Corteva Agriscience realised this and partnered with the Gordon Institute of Business Science’s (GIBS) Entrepreneurship Development Academy (EDA) to offer a customised programme aimed at creating an enabling environment for women agripreneurs.
The programme orientation was officially launched on International Women’s Day (8th March) with high growth potential businesses. The programme will equip the beneficiaries with the skills and knowledge required to scale and create food, jobs, and economic success while simultaneously empowering themselves.
Of those who started the programme, their business activities are diverse and include the following:
It is expected that the impact of the programme will be felt positively across the diverse sub-sectors. Nonetheless, over a three-month period, no fewer than 678 applications for the programme were received. While not all applicants could be accepted, this figure reveals both the need and the level of demand from the women active in agriculture in South Africa.
Transformation in this sector must be prioritised
In many respects, corporate boardrooms and other contexts have seen high levels of transformation, but agriculture remains a sector in dire need of further attention in this regard.
We call on all supplier development and BDS service providers/practitioners to join us in making every effort to minimise the gender equality issues in agriculture.
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