This International Women’s Day on March 8th, we celebrate women around the world and gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, towards progress and a just, more equal world.
Despite food systems being the largest employer of women, they remain more at risk of food insecurity than men. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate constraints faced by female farmers, GAFSP’s public and private sector projects aim to strengthen smallholder farmers' climate resilience, especially women, reducing their risk and vulnerability to climate shocks.
We ensure that women have equal access to funding, support, and information. GAFSP-funded projects encompassing gender-sensitive good practices related to agricultural technology, extension, and input interventions have supported more than 6 million women—close to 40 percent of all people reached.
From Bangladesh to Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) and Liberia, we work with producer organizations and farmers to make sure that women can support themselves and their families to not just survive, but thrive.
1. Uniting and fighting together
When COVID-19 hit Bangladesh, Rita Brommo was among the smallholder farmers concerned about how the global pandemic would impact their communities. In addition to the health concerns, there was also anxiety about food security and income generation. Without being able to move around to sell produce, how would farmers be able to earn enough money to put food on the table?
I want to say only one thing to the farmers: let’s be united first. Then there will be more hands to lend, and we will have more power. With more power, we can face any challenge that comes.
But as a member of the Sara Bangla Krishak Society, Rita soon got answers to her questions. Before the pandemic, the Society had already been supported with funding from GAFSP, which reached more than 9,000 smallholder farmers across Bangladesh, 62% of them women. When the health crisis hit, the national network of farmers’ organizations responded by setting up 57 Virtual Call Centers, equipping farmers, both women and men, with information to respond to the crisis. The centers coordinated calls from farmers wishing to buy their produce, matching them with buyers. Focal points received up to 200 calls a day, helping farmers buy and sell produce, procure seeds or fertilizer.
2. Powering up skills
Mo Ya, a 35-year-old mother of four from the Hmong ethnic community in northern Lao PDR had to move to a new village after getting married. For as long as she could remember, she had raised goats for a living. But in her new surroundings in the mountainous Xieng Khouang province, she could not find goats to raise and cattle-raising was much more popular. With little understanding of cattle-raising and few learning opportunities, she knew she would have to rethink income options and adapt to her new surroundings.
Then, in 2017, Mo Ya heard about the Agriculture for Nutrition Programme, a $38.8 million GAFSP-funded project supported by IFAD and WFP, and implemented with the Government of Laos, namely the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The project reached 400 villages in 12 districts across Lao PDR, with the aim of improving climate-resilient agriculture, household nutrition, and income-generating opportunities.
Mo Ya joined a goat-raising group training to learn new skills, including how smaller livestock, such as goats, can provide more sustainable livelihoods and incur less risk than larger livestock. Through the project, her group won a US$5,000 grant, which they divided among 13 members to give each household around US$400. Mo Ya invested the money in four big goats, metal roofing for a pen, and some vaccines. Today, she has a flock of 30 goats, and has earned more than US$1,000, re-investing her income into school fees, a new goat enclosure, and also building household savings for emergencies.
3. Tapping strong partnerships for a resilient future
From rice in rich sauces to the starchy mashed cassava dish known as ‘fufu’, rice and cassava are staple foods in Liberia. Rice alone accounts for half of all calories consumed in the country, with every person eating around 133 kilograms a year– among the highest levels in Africa. Yet, Liberia only produces 40% of its local rice needs, importing 300,000 metric tons a year, at a cost of US$ 200 million. Since 80% of imported rice to Liberia is parboiled, there is an opportunity for women in particular, to earn extra income by parboiling rice.
Tapping a longstanding relationship, the GAFSP and the global research partnership CGIAR, worked together through the US$46.5 million Smallholder Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Commercialization (SAPEC) to improve the rice value chain to tackle food shortages and empower women at the same time. Implemented through the Liberian Ministry of Agriculture, with funding from GAFSP, the African Development Bank, and the Government of Liberia, research and field-based activities were carried out to shift dependency on imports towards long-term resilience within rice and cassava value-chains.
New, improved rice varieties were introduced, and women were encouraged to form cooperatives to obtain finance in their own right. They were also provided with stoves to cut energy requirements and exposure to smoke, reducing the amount of water used in parboiling rice. Liberia’s Minister of Agriculture, Jeanine Cooper, noted:
The combination of CGIAR-generated evidence and tools for climate-smart progress in agriculture, and GAFSP’s funds and support to take these tools to farmers, have contributed towards strengthening resilience at all levels within our communities.
Liberia is now building on this work with GAFSP and the CGIAR through AfricaRice to intensify rice production; continuing to put farmers at the center. This funding will support 25,000 food insecure and low-income farming households towards commercially-oriented agriculture, bolstering economic growth and improving food security for a more resilient future.
Follow GAFSP for more examples of how we are supporting gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.