Our Impact on Gender Inclusivity
The gender gap in agriculture is large and tremendously costly. Due to the disparity in access to knowledge, improved inputs, land, and other critical resources, on the continent as a whole, the productivity of women-led farms is 20 to 30% lower than those of men. A range of sociocultural and structural barriers lead to worse outcomes for women across the agriculture ecosystem. Women are far less likely to be entrepreneurs and own agribusinesses, whether as agrodealers or off-takers. They are less likely to provide extension services or to access them. We see specific challenges to address:
- Structural barriers limiting opportunity for women, with deeply-embedded assumptions and biases entrenching systemic challenges
- Lack of support for women-owned and led agricultural businesses, adding additional challenges to what can – especially for SMEs – be a difficult sector to begin with
- Lack of access and limited agency for women farmers, leading to lower adoption of improved inputs and good agronomic practices, lower productivity, and greater vulnerability
In our early years, AGRA took a “gender-neutral” approach to our interventions. Recognizing that this was not enough, we have made a conscious shift to focusing on opportunities and agency for women – as business owners and as the heads of profitable farms. These efforts are in the early stages and must be expanded, but we are seeing early evidence of change.
At the farmer level, AGRA has reached 3.5 million women from 2018 to 2020 with improved technologies and extension services. We have tracked the share of women that receive extension services, and we can see the gap compared to men closing across most of our countries. We also found that 55% of women farmers reported changing the way they farm as compared to 2017, which is an important first step towards closing the productivity gap. Part of our outreach effort is the deliberate inclusion of women as VBAs. We have had particular success in Kenya, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso, where 24% of VBAs are now women – making it easier for women farmers to connect, receive services, and have role models.
In the private sector, we have worked with nearly two thousand women-owned or led businesses. AGRA’s work across input systems, agrodealers, and other interventions, we have supported those who are ready to challenge a male-dominated sector. Our support includes practical business and management skills, as well as linkages to financial services and markets. Among the companies we have helped are 23 seed companies led by women, as well as over 1,400 agrodealers. This is an encouraging start, though we acknowledge that these account for just 13 to 15% of the total businesses we have engaged in those areas.
AGRA is also investing in strategies that help drive scalable impact, most notably our Value4Her platform. We acquired the platform as a deliberate step in improving the our capabilities to support women entrepreneurs. The platform has reached over one thousand women-led/owned companies across 39 countries, and we expect that it will enable AGRA to deliver better training, networking, and market and financing connections.
Significantly more investment will be needed, but we expect our impact to grow as our gender inclusivity strategy is more deeply embedded into our work. Through the AGRF and Deal Room, we have deliberately created a platform for women to connect with partners and showcase investment opportunities. Our work in private sector and agricultural systems will increasingly emphasize a deliberate inclusion strategy, as evidenced in selecting women VBAs and supporting women-led/owned SMEs. We are also introducing this into our state capability and policy work, leading, for example, to inclusion of gender priorities and advocacy element in flagship programs for Malawi and Mozambique.