DIVAGRI Gender Expert Elisa Matola from Instituto Superior Politecnico de Manica in Mozambique discusses the importance of gender empowerment on the DIVAGRI project

Why are women and youth empowerment so important in the small-scale farming sector in Africa?

Women and youth make essential contributions to the agricultural and rural economies in all developing countries in Africa. Their roles vary considerably between and within regions and are changing rapidly in many parts of the world, and in Africa where economic and social forces are transforming the agricultural sector. Gender gaps are often larger in rural areas than in the areas near the cities.

However, in Africa in general, women are the ones responsible for producing food. They are responsible for planting and harvesting crops, tending livestock and other activities on the farm, including providing household income and providing care for family members. Women face enormous obstacles in the realization of their work due to the existing gender power relations in rural communities, and to the limited access to resources, technology, finance, and market, while having the responsibilities for domestic work.

Moreover, although crucial contributors to agriculture, particularly food production, women’s efforts are not given the recognition they deserve, i.e., underpaid and undervalued. Therefore, failure to invest in women farmers is one of the major contributing factors to food insecurity in the nation.

Elisa Matola
Is women empowerment only an issue for women or do men have a role to play too?

Yes, men do have an important role in elevating women’s access to decision making forums, accesses to resources and control of economic resources because generally men in Africa have full control of the resources and they are the decision makers in the communities and with the household. If they are well educated and trained to involve and share with women they will do so.

In agriculture, women are mostly engaged in subsistence farming and domestic work and they face challenges in expressing their opinions and participating in social activities. However, there are efforts in place to engage more men to have a role in achieving gender equality and promoting women empowerment.

While women and youth might have partial or full control and involvement in marketing some commodities, they have limited control over important resources such as land, large livestock and farm implements.  Culturally important households’ resources like land, traction animals and farm implements are entitled to men- adult men- particularly to male headed households. As a result of this women have limited engagement with those commodities that require resources like land and animal traction to produce.

How is DIVAGRI addressing women and youth empowerment in the project? 

DIVAGRI is a gender-neutral initiative. A significant gender balance is presented across management, leadership and advisory roles among the external participants of the project. The project activities support women’s assertion and their role in the overall food supply chains.

There is constant communication among partners which enables the sharing of diverse cultural experiences from different countries. Gender issues are covered in workshops, seminars, policy and living labs, to contribute to changing the agri-food gender-stereotype image by involving women in the implementation and evaluation of the project’s activities.

Gender plays a significant impact in the implementation of the project’s development models, considering gender-based acceptance and adoption. Bio based technological innovations are designed and programmed to consider the physical, psychological and social characteristics of the user.

What have been the challenges to bring about women and youth empowerment in the project? 

The main challenges to bring about women and youth empowerment in the project are:

  • The different country realities (with different communities’ perspectives and beliefs) make it difficult to use an approach that fits all.
  • Gender stereotypes and inequalities within the selected communities and among small farmers.
  • Lack of a responsive gender-sensitive community monitoring and evaluation system.
  • Inadequate structures for information-sharing and accountability in the communities.
  • Lack of effective organizations to represent small-scale farmers and businesses.
  • Different interpretations of the available gender policies and rules.
What are the successes the project has managed to achieve? 

The project has succeeded to achieve the following in empowering women and youth:

  • Gender analysis among different countries teams to determine which PRO-WEAI indicators are most important for the project. These activities also helped with identification of gender stereotypes among the countries participation in the project.
  • Adapt the PRO-WEAI to the project needs by capturing different or additional indicators;
  • Include PRO-WEAI indicators in the results framework and report;
  • The reports are adapted to be gender sensitive-always include statistics disaggregated in number of male and female participants in the activities.
  • The project’s development models, consider gender-based acceptance and adoption.
  • Bio based technological innovations are designed and programmed to consider the physical, psychological and social characteristics of the user.
  • Make interventions that impact women and youth empowerment using each of the 3 domains (and indicators):
    • Workshop on Gender (gender, inclusiveness and empowerment, Pro-WEAI concepts);
    • Project Gender Action Plan development.
    • COP Survey model (gender and BBT perceptions).
    • Gender parity within research and management teams within the consortium.