According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), “Women play a significant role in agriculture, the world over. About 70% of the agricultural workers, 80% of food producers, and 10% of those who process basic foodstuffs are women and they also undertake 60 to 90% of the rural marketing; thus making up more than two third of the workforce in agricultural production (FAO, 1985).
Women are known and acknowledged, all over the world, to make enormous contributions to the agricultural sector and rural economies, especially in developing countries. Women are involved in producing crops, tending livestock, processing and preparing food, working for wages in agribusiness enterprises, and engaging in trade and marketing.
The influence of women is strong in the use of eggs, milk and poultry meat for home consumption and they often have control over marketing and the income from these products. Perhaps for this reason, poultry and small-scale dairy projects have been popular investments for development projects aiming to improve the lot of rural women. In some countries, small-scale pig production is also dominated by women. But despite the fact that the role and participation of women in agriculture is well recognized and clearly significant, there hasn’t
been much documentation about the engagement and investment of women in the agribusiness value chain beyond production and processing. Much as these w o m e n s tri v e t o b e m o r e productive and relevant in the
agribusiness sector, they often experience a multitude of problems.
1. Lack of access to land. Women in agriculture in many communities in Africa suffer the lack of a c c e s s t o l a n d / p r o p e r t y . C e r t a i n cultural/traditional practices deny women ownership of land/property. It is said that women produce up to 80% of the crops but own only about 1% of the land. This deprivation has led to the poor recognition of the contributions of women in the agribusiness sector. It is believed that if women are given equal access to agricultural land, there will be increased production, productivity and sustainability in the sector.
2. Poor access to funding. Women face a lot of challenges getting finance for their agribusiness, from funding availability to affordability. Apart from the fact that many women agropreneurs are not financially literate to meet the borrowing criteria of the financial institutions, the major problem actually comes from the high interest rates charged, making the funds unaffordable. It is believed that women’ s contribution to
agribusiness will experience a huge boost were they to have sufficient funding for their business with less stress.
3. Lack of/Poor infrastructure. Africa generally, is bedeviled with poor infrastructure and most of the women engaged in agribusiness are located in the rural areas where the roads are unmotorable, making transportation and logistics difficult and expensive. Other infrastructure needs include security, energy and power supply, extension ser v i ces , s torage fac i l ities , improved technologies, etc, all of which are lacking or epileptic at best, to the women. With improved infrastructure, the women in agribusiness would produce more cheaply and efficiently and s igni fi cantl y inc rease produc ti v ity and industrialization while reducing poverty in the society.
4. Lack of access to markets. Majority of the women in agribusiness have no access to market
research information and data and this has limited their ability and capacity to take advantage of market opportunities. In addition, there are no support systems available to assess the quality of their products so opportunities to tap into large markets and export completely elude them.
5. Lack access to technology. Agribusiness has made a lot of progress through the use of technology. The production sub-sector has grown
through mechanization; and processing to distribution now managed using sophisticated equipment and machinery. But many women have no knowledge on how to use these technologies and conduct their business using rudimentary methods. This has kept many of them at the subsistence level, leaving little or no room for advancement.
- Diversion of income from women. New techniques in agriculture, particularly those involving commercialization, have been discovered to “shift economic control, employment and profit from women to men” (ILO), causing increased suffering for families. This is because studies have found that, in general, income controlled by women benefits families more than income controlled by men (UN).
Without a concerted effort to empower the women who make up about 50% of the population, African nations will continue to wallow in poverty and deprivation. Women are known to be wealth creators and their contributions over the centuries, even with no recognition, have put food on the tables of millions of families. They can do much more, and better too, if only attention will be paid to the challenges discussed above.