SINGAPORE – The agriculture sector is particularly promising for increased investment in women. Farmers – the most numerous and invested business people in the sector – are underserved by the market, and the notion that women are the world’s most underutilized resource certainly applies to the 564 million who are engaged in agriculture worldwide.
Following Grow Asia’s roundtable and report on the agricultural gender gap at last year’s Responsible Business Forum, Grow Asia took the dialogue one step further and facilitated a session on the economic empowerment of women at the recent Responsible Business Forum on Food and Agriculture in Jakarta.
Below is a summary of some of the key themes from the discussion. For more information, takeaways and action points, you can read our newly launched Report: Creating Opportunities for Women in Agriculture.
Invest in women along the entire value chain: Roundtable keynote speaker Eriko Ishikawa, Global Program Manager for Inclusive Business at International Finance Corporation (IFC) stressed that we need to invest in women along all stages of the value chain to enable women to benefit equally from agri-food value chains. Women play significant roles in production and post-harvest processing, that are often key determinants of the size and quality of the final commodities produced. Yet, these roles are often informal, unacknowledged, or under-resourced. Conversely, in transportation, marketing, and sales women are underrepresented outside local markets, playing limited roles that keep them from gaining from the most profitable portions of the value chain. Across the entirety of the value chain, women face limited access to information, hired labor, technology, assets, and networks. When given equal access, women can maximize their contributions to the sector.
It takes a village: Women can be the key agents of change in agriculture, nutrition and rural development but only if governments, businesses, NGOs and communities work cohesively to ensure that. As an established platform that has proven success with multi-stakeholder partnerships, Grow Asia, through its various country partnerships has been successful in influencing the way businesses perceive women as workers, suppliers, intermediaries or customers, and the way the partnerships in working groups act to include women in their growing businesses.
Participants also echoed the importance of a community-based approach in ensuring women are provided the same opportunities and platform to sustain themselves. For instance, this includes co-operating and educating local communities that are more traditional or conservative to transform their mindsets and emphasize the value women can bring to their families and the overall livelihood of the community if given the right training and support.
With better access to information, training, and technology, women can alter food production and consumption so that land and resources are used sustainably.
Grow Asia is interested in hearing from businesses with experience of successfully integrating women into value chains, or organizations which would like support doing so. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to share your perspectives or any feedback on the Outcome Report.