In this guest blog post, Alexis Ellicott, CNFA Chief of Party on the USAID/Agro-Inputs Project tells Farming First how women are being empowered to enter into the male-dominated sector.
Women produce more than half of the world’s food. Global population is forecast to reach 9 billion by 2050, and the world’s women will continue to shoulder a huge share of the responsibility for feeding all those additional mouths.
But time is not on women’s side. According to the World Economic Forum, we still will be more than 120 years from full gender parity in 2050. It is no stretch to foresee that this continued lack of parity, should it persist as forecast, will severely hinder the ability of women to perform their key role in feeding the world’s population—and produce a potentially disastrous shortfall in the global food supply.
Given these facts, it is clear that if we are to meet our future food needs, we must put increased emphasis on empowering the world’s women farmers and rural women entrepreneurs. And we must act quickly.
Empowering women in many – perhaps most – areas of the world is not a simple task. As anyone involved in global development can attest, efforts to promote gender parity must clear hurdles unique to the social and cultural setting of each initiative.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day — “Be Bold for Change” – hits close to home for me. For the last two years, I have lived in Bangladesh, working with Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), which is implementing the USAID/Agro-Inputs Project (AIP). The effort has been a broad success, not only for men, but also for women. Through the creation of a local Agro-Input Retailers Network (AIRN), AIP now provides funding, training, and technical advice to more than 3,000 retailers selling inputs such as seed and fertilizer – including more than 200 women in what previously had been an almost entirely male-dominated sector.
KARNPLAY, Nimba – A group of 57 people at the Gbehlay-Geh Rural Women Multipurpose Cooperative Society received a US$100,000 loan to boost their rice and cassava production on March 1 in Karnplay.
The group, chaired by Annie Kruah, was formed in September 2005 with a focus on agriculture produce, including rice, cassava, and oil palm. In a special remark during a brief ceremony held prior to the loan distribution, Kruah cautioned her members to treat the loan repayment process with sincerity.
“Women, they have given us a challenge… and they are saying that if we cannot make it, other people will not make it,” Kruah said. “My women, I want [you] to leave proud on the Gbehlay-Geh name. The way the people look at us and respect us… they jumped over the other cooperatives and came to us. Please make us proud so that they can know that women [are] in the county.”
“This challenge is not even for us alone, but for the whole county,” Kruah added. “Let’s get on our feet; let’s put on trousers and work, please. This money is not for pleasure; it’s for working! Let us get in the swamp to work, so that this trial they give us, we can be able to make it.”
The vice president for Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) has underscored the role women play in agriculture in most developing countries.
As such, Ms. Sheryl Cowan has urged the Liberian government to empower women so they too can contribute to the enhancement of the country’s food security.
Ms. Cowan made the statement yesterday when she served as guest speaker at a program marking the 2016 Medium Small Micro Enterprise (MSME) conference in Monrovia.
The occasion was attended by Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Commerce Minister Axel Addy, and other distinguished personalities.
CNFA is an international agricultural organization working with several countries to create opportunities to improve on food security.
In Liberia, the entity implements the Liberia Agri-business Development Activity (LADA), a US$20 million agriculture project sponsored by the U. S government under the Feed the Future Global Food Security Initiative.
This year’s MSME conference highlights the promotion of Liberian female entrepreneurs for economic empowerment, and is held under the theme, “From Vision to Implementation; Buying Liberian and Building Liberia.”
“Majority of farmers in Liberia are women who represent more than 50 percent of the country’s farming population. They serve as farmers, processors and entrepreneurs who have reportedly produced more than 60 percent of Liberia’s agricultural output.
“Therefore, C Ms. Cowan said.
She said considering the significant role women are playing in agriculture, the Liberia agri-business project will ensure that more female farmers are recruited as beneficiaries. The project is implemented by CNFA.
“To understand the need of women to actively participate in agriculture production in the country, we have shaped our approach where LADA will increase private sector investment in the agricultural input system; engage both males and females with particular emphasis on women’s participation in the agro-dealers input sector. This, I believe, will improve the income of women as the sector has limited women for entrepreneurship,” Ms Cowan added.
She said LADA will build the capacity of females to become more knowledgeable and experienced agro-input dealers, adding, “We have already started the training of agro-dealers who will serve as extension officers,” Cowan said.
She said to further increase private sector investment in the area of postharvest handling, storage, packaging, transportation, and auxiliary services, both males and females will become beneficiaries. “We are targeting more female beneficiaries as they often lack access to information in these areas, thereby making it difficult to make informed decisions as well as learn new opportunities. We have set up a US$3 million co-investment fund as a matching grant to increase the assets of smallholder farmers,” Ms Cowan said.
She used the opportunity to announce the launch of the Agro-Business Investment Network -a medium to highlight issues such as taxes and tariffs that could hinder the growth of entrepreneurs in Liberia’s agriculture sector.