By Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, Senior Technical Adviser Value Chains & Agribusiness, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
Women in rural Africa are among the most entrepreneurial people in the world, constantly finding ways to make ends meet with limited resources.
They are also expert multi-taskers, often tending to livestock and smallholdings while also raising their families.
Yet despite making up more than 40% of the agricultural workforce, women often do not benefit as much from the business end of the value chain where there are the most opportunities for income generation.
This means that half of the population is missing out on the chance to fulfil their potential, maximise their earnings, and benefit from better prospects for them and their families.
Not only this, but the economy is missing out on valuable contributions while producers could be overlooking key opportunities to reach new and bigger markets.
Studies indicate that addressing some of the constraints to women’s economic empowerment, particularly in rural Africa, have greater returns on investments, for the family, economy and society as a whole.
For example, an increase of $10 to a woman’s income achieves the same improvements to children’s health and nutrition as a $110 increase in a man’s income.
Meanwhile, studies show that if women had the same access to agricultural production resources as men, their productivity would increase by between 20 to 30 per cent, with anticipated increase in agricultural GDP by 2.5 per cent.
So what can we do to help women thrive, not only as producers, but as agripreneurs?
Firstly, women need better access to high-value regional and global markets.
Events such as the VALUE4HER Women in Agribusiness Conference, held in Nairobi this month, are instrumental in connecting women producers with companies to establish new trade partners and business deals.
This might mean linking crop farmers to processors who make use of their raw ingredients in different food products to help reach urban or export markets, for example.
Secondly, women agripreneurs need support to develop their business management and leadership skills so that they can grow their ventures.
This kind of training from business leaders not only benefits those who attend, but those who come after, with learnings and skills cascading down throughout women’s contacts and networks.
Finally, women agripreneurs need help forming the kind of well-established business networks that exist for men.
Digital platforms that connect women to other agripreneurs can help them share knowledge and information, achieve economies of scale and build business skills.
This is why the launch of VALUE4HERConnect, the first digital agribusiness intelligence network targeting African women during this event is so important.
This new digital platform will help women agripreneurs develop business relationships to foster cooperation and learning.
The potential impact of improving women’s opportunities to enter agribusiness run deep.
Supporting women to develop their agribusinesses not only allows them to increase their household income, it also diversifies and enriches the food supply, helping to make it more resilient.
Promoting women’s agribusinesses, then, is not only a viable route to increasing livelihoods and prosperity for rural communities, it is also an enormous opportunity to improve gender equality for a more prosperous, equitable world for all.