The USAID-funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program provides technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries to promote sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production, and marketing. Recently we asked F2F Regional Director, Mike Bassey, why is women’s empowerment important for the F2F program. Read on to see what he had to say about #HerImpact in building a food secure world.
In general, women are known for their perspective in agricultural activities from the quality rather than quantity perspective and are therefore inclined to safer use of pesticides for example. For instance, during a session on business/project development and grant proposal writing attended by both women and men, a class activity which focused on women and men perspectives on shrimp production was administered. During this activity, women saw shrimps as a source of food, needing safe production processes and practices – uniform standards of quality rather than quantity. As a food, better quality has greater demand/expanded market, greater demand/expanded market equals increase production, increased production presents opportunity for increased employment/increased profits and opportunity to earn more money. Profitable shrimp business equals improved living standards and investment opportunities.
Within the agriculture industry, there are many opportunities for a woman with little or no support to start a small business that can begin to support herself and her children, and/or elderly or disabled family members. Women are more apt to create agri-businesses from produce that doesn’t make it to the market and/or to create an additional income stream into the family for expenses of education, medical care and investment into the growth of their farming and agricultural businesses. For instance, women use bees wax to produce body cream, wine, candles, which they sell in the local market.
Additionally, women use reeds, grasses and husks to make baskets, brooms and mats for home and community use. Local teas and beverages are produced without additives that vitalize people’s health, soothe mild aches and adds nutritional value to their diets.
The more women are involved in agricultural cooperatives, the more opportunities are presented. Working together with other women enable them access funding and selling in bulk with other farmers provides the ability to access bigger markets further away. Agricultural cooperatives provide information on how to access opportunities, how to produce better crops, how to package products, how to store products in storage silos, how to use new equipment, and joint ownership of large equipment. These opportunities have been mostly available to men, as cooperatives are only now understanding the value of an inclusive gender membership.
These opportunities also allow women to make choices in their lives – ones that can help secure and protect them and their children from abuse and violence/or neglect and other vulnerabilities, ones that enable them earn respect and place in the community, ones that can help them add value to their family income and resources, or ones that position them as role models to their children and to fellow women in community.
Women’s roles in all societies and cultures are multifaceted and cannot be ignored. There is therefore an increasing need for family, community, private and public sector and the donor community support to women; otherwise, we all lose out on creating a more productive and efficient and sustainable food security system to enhances our health and growth.