Women Are the Backbone of Agriculture

Report from the event Women in Agricultural Value Chains: Experiences, Impacts & Commitments for the Future, inclusive of five video statements from the field

It’s been more than a hundred years since World Women’s Day was introduced. However, the concept of gender equity still has a long way to go to become a universal principle of law and accepted in practice.

To support the process, the Agenda 2030, the new European Consensus on Development Policy and the German Sustainability Strategy highlight how critical the strive for gender equity is for sustainable development efforts in partner countries.

On the occasion of the 2018 World Women’s Day, GIZ ran its 10th Gender Week. It proved to be an excellent opportunity for colleagues from around the world to network and to exchange on the subject.

On 8 March the Sector Project Agricultural Trade and Value Chains held the event Women in Agricultural Value Chains: Experiences, Impacts & Commitments for the Future in Bonn. The new Gender Guide for Practitioners of the Global Programme Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector was presented. The global programme’s indicators — defined for all countries where the global programme is active — measure the involvement of women. To advance on active inclusion and to generally promote more gender-sensitive development in the partner countries, however, practitioners within the Green Innovation Centres will need more assistance with carrying out gender-related activities in a sustainable fashion. The new guide therefore aims to support practitioners of the Green Innovation Centres in strengthening the integration of gender aspects in their activities.

Experience presented

Experts from IFPRI, KIT Amsterdam and Michigan State University presented their experiences with the integration of gender aspects into agricultural value chains from different parts of the world.

The collaborative platform for gender research

Rhiannon Pyburn of IFPRI/KIT Sustainable Economic Development demonstrated the purpose of the collaborative platform for gender research the CGIAR launched in January 2017. It is hosted at the CGIAR Research Programs on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), serving all their 12 research programs and 15 CGIAR Centres. It aims to:

  • Increase the visibility and profile of gender research within CGIAR and internationally
  • Raise the quality of CGIAR gender research
  • Assess and progress on cross-CGIAR gender research priorities and identify gaps
  • Foster and catalyze strategic partnerships

Among other aspects, the platform offers monthly webinars, a wide range of knowledge resources and information on upcoming gender-related events.

A comprehensive study by Michigan State University

The study that had been commissioned by GIZ assesses the role of women in agricultural value chains in nine African countries using national representative multi-year household data. For each country, the levels of employment and the extent to which sectoral employment has shifted in three employment categories were explored. First results show that while most African women work in farming, there are regional variations. Only very few women are engaged in agro-processing. The study also found that jobs for women in agricultural value chains often grow most rapidly in rural and not urban areas. Lastly, it also showed that, in contrast to the popular assumption, the average age of men and women in farming is not rising in the analyzed countries.

Video statements from the field

A highlight was the presentation of five videos from the partner countries, three of which are posted here:

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A special role for German cooperation?

The event also provided an opportunity for an exchange between Hans-Joachim Preuss, Managing Director at GIZ, Stefan Schmitz, head of the BMZ subdivision directorate for Food, Agriculture and Rural Development, and gender experts from GIZ as well as other institutions with regard to previous experiences and challenges.

In particular, the role and commitment of German development cooperation in the field of gender was debated. Some pointed out that GIZ together with other German development cooperation actors needed to lead by example and this should include gender equity aspects as an essential part of their work. On a larger scale, it was important that gender remained a core theme of the political dialogue with partners.

The panelists agreed that gathering information was important to remain capable of acting and developing policies. Many myths had evolved because data had not been updated. Considering this, the panelists concurred that it was essential to integrate gender-sensitive indicators in national surveys. Those indicators should also include empowerment indicators, such as whether women felt safe at their job and whether or not had a say in choosing their occupation.

From the data, it emerged that women not only require better access to the labour market but also the better prerequisites and greater liberty when it comes to switching occupations. Structural changes and urbanization provided women with the opportunity to establish empowerment hubs and find more formal employment. However, at present the majority of jobs was in the informal sector, 85-90%. If the efforts were suitable to stimulate income growth, then added purchasing power could provide opportunities in the formal sector — but everything was also dependent on demand and other factors such as technology.