Diana Caspers

Going Gender-Smart in Africa and Asia for Economic Empowerment of Rural Women

Empowering women has been recognized as key to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its goals. According to FAO women comprise just over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force in the developing world, but these women farmers on average achieve yields that are 20-30% lower than men’s.

However, numerous studies suggest that women are just as efficient as men and would achieve the same yields if they had equal access to productive resources and services. Bridging this gender yield gap would boost food and nutrition security globally and afford women farmers the opportunity to run a successful farm business!

Women are central to agriculture in many of the countries we work in, but they often have limited access to resources, inputs, information, training and technology to improve their outputs. Supporting economic empowerment of women can help them to be part of the value chain. Developing gender-smart activities in agribusiness can give women strength and confidence and provide new opportunities.

Reality Check

At Bayer, we would like to contribute to supporting women in agriculture in developing and emerging markets in a ways which have a positive impact on their lives and create shared value for everyone involved. Together the Smallholder Farming team at Bayer and external experts in development and inclusive business, carried out researches in the Kenyan and Indian Smallholder Farming community by gathering information through desk and field research. The latter consisted of face-to-face interviews with smallholder farmers conducted by the experts. Through this work we proposed gender-smart solutions to adhere to the needs of women while staying close to our core business activities.

Diana Caspers
Diana Caspers
Diana Caspers,
Global Sustainability Excellence Manager, Bayer Crop Science Division

Gender Capacity Building in Kenya

Our work showed that among potato women farmers in Kenya some of the challenges include:

  • Lack of land ownership and little control of land usage
  • No income or control over income
  • Single or widowed women are not well integrated into the community due to their status
  • Obligations at home in addition to working at farms

Even though we have no direct and immediate influence on the issue of land ownership and usage or household income control, we can support education around gender constraints with our colleagues and the local communities. For example, small changes like offering training for women at a time that suits their family commitments would already help them to participate. With a gender capacity training aiming to encourage such gender-supportive attitudes and practices, we help to value the contribution and role of women within the community for the long run.

Women-led nurseries in India

On the other hand, our research within the Indian tomato community, found that women have the following challenges:

  • Income was mainly from farming but was irregular, very unproductive, and mainly subsistence
  • Malnutrition and health issues affecting pregnancy, child birth and newborn's health
  • Basic plant nursery skills but only practiced at household level

The research found that a project supporting plant nurseries that would grow quality tomato seedlings and sell these to smallholder farmers would be a valuable approach. Plant nurseries are an attractive business model for rural women and would strengthen the value proposition of Bayer to smallholder farmers. Women would benefit from the entrepreneurial opportunity – receive a sustainable, steady and significant income from nursery service. This could help promote their role in society, and can be combined with improving nutrition by growing and consuming more vegetables. Bayer would gain reliable, skillful partners by working with women’s self-help groups.

The way forward

At Bayer, we are planning to launch half-day of gender capacity training in the Kenyan Smallholder community beginning next year to integrate women’s challenges and constraints into our project activities. Further, we are continuing the discussion on women-led nurseries for the Indian tomato community and will include results from the Indian chili project which also supports nurseries. However, we have already agreed with the tomato off-taker, to have women acting as retailers for the collection centers. Additionally already 6 so called ‘agri-entrepreneurs’ (acting as knowledge hub) are being introduced to the Indian tomato project and we can report that 2-3 will be women smallholders.

We are confident that developing gender-smart solutions in agribusiness can empower women to help improving the lives in many communities where they live. Thus, not only we have initiated these projects but we are also in conversations with our Food Chain Partnerships team to identify further partners and continue to positively impact women in diverse farming communities.

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