7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Gender and agricultural entrepreneurship

Gender and agricultural entrepreneurship

Unlocking women's full potential through agricultural empowerment

Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 11:00 to 12:15

Key points

•    Prizes and rural economic empowerment programmes are helping women farmers increase their crop yields, earn more and give their children a better education and healthier food. 
•    In Dmitra clubs, groups of men and women villagers seek practical solutions to their problems.
•    Good practices are shared among villages and communities via solar radios.
•    Reality TV shows are being used to raise the profile of women farmers.
•    To ensure that they are not individually targeted by middlemen and coaxed into accepting unfairly low prices for their produce, small scale women farmers should organise to set fair prices for themselves and the group. 


Unlocking women’s potential to work in agriculture and to be entrepreneurial depend largely on access to land and the market.

The World Food Programme has a scheme to encourage the economic empowerment of rural women. In one example, a mother was provided with training in modern farming techniques and was able to increase her maize yield considerably. With her earnings, she was able to buy extra land, feed her family better and send her children to school. Another example providing incentives for women farmers is the Oxfam Female Food Hero initiative. https://www.oxfam.org/en/tags/female-food-heroes

Dmitra clubs, which were developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), are self-organised groups of men and women who meet to discuss how to improve their living conditions. The clubs are a ‘village assembly’ of people of all ages, where families are encouraged to discuss issues such as water or land access to work out how everyone can improve their living conditions. It is crucial that both men and women attend these village assemblies, the results and experiences of which are shared with other villages and communities via solar radios.

One example is in Niger, where drought is a major problem for farmers. Before the Dmitra club met, the women would fetch water from wells that were often 30 metres deep with their bare hands, which is backbreaking work. The men would fetch water with donkeys, which belonged to them exclusively. At the Dmitra club, the women asked for and were granted permission to use the donkeys. After the meeting, the rest of the villagers all agreed to follow the example. 

Tanzania has a new reality show in Swahili called ‘Female food heroes’ to help raise the profile of women farmers. Women are selected from all over Tanzania to take part in activities such as drawing up a village development plan.

One obstacle facing small-scale women farmers is that middlemen often approach individuals and effectively set the prices for the output they buy, regardless of they are fair. A solution is for the women to organise and decide on the prices they want to charge for their produce. By joining forces they can negotiate a fairer price for all. In the Caribbean, a group of organic coffee farmers set up markets themselves so that they could control prices, instead of waiting for a buyer to turn up at their farm gate. They meet regularly to discuss prices, inputs and returns on investment. 


The problem of access to land could be solved if women farmers cooperated more with each other. By working in groups, they could save cash to be used to buy or lease more land.

Organised by

    Jean-Pierre Halkin
    Head of Unit for Rural Development, Food Security and Nutrition
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
    Anthony Ngororano
    Chief of the Africa Section
    Carolina Chelele
    Farmer and Winner of the Female Food Hero initiative
    Halimatou Moussa Idi
    Joint Programme Coordinator
    Rural Women's Economic Empowerment
    Kawinzi Muiu
    Director of Gender
    UN World Food Programme
    Dorienne Rowan-Campbell
    Farmer, Rowan’s Royal and Policy Chair
    Jamaica Organic Movement and Farmer
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