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Women at the forefront of knowledge sharing

G. G. Taylor and I. Lopes Ramos

Women are the backbone of the development of rural and national economies. They comprise 43% of the world’s agricultural labour force, and as much as 70% in some countries.

Yet the gender gap continues to be a challenge due to women’s limited access and control over land, productive resources, markets and services. Targeted knowledge management initiatives are an opportunity to help rural women to improve their socio-economic position by integrating into economic activities and reducing inequalities.

Established in 1999, the Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers (CANROP), is an umbrella organisation that collaborates with national chapters of rural women’s associations in the Caribbean. As a non-profit organisation, CANROP’s mission is to empower rural women producers in the Caribbean region to improve their livelihoods. In order to realise its mission, CANROP targets interventions to reduce the level of inequality among rural women and improve their socio-economic position.

These interventions comprise training, cultural exchanges, networking and promoting interregional and intra-regional trade. The network facilitates access to specialised credit, seeks to create sustainable employment opportunities and undertakes advocacy to sensitise society to the needs and contributions of women in agriculture. CANROP has regional affiliations in Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

CANROP is a member of the Alliance for Sustainable Development of Agriculture and the Rural Milieu and is supported by the Offices of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in the Caribbean. The network has existed for 15 years but limited communications have hindered the full development of the network. To bridge these gaps, CANROP started a series of activities in 2014 with the support of CTA and IICA to facilitate networking and communication among the network’s members and to strengthen their knowledge management skills.

A knowledge management scan developed by CTA and Co-Capacity, a knowledge management advisory firm based in Wageningen, the Netherlands, has helped the network to set new priorities in terms of knowledge management and communication and find new sources of support. The first priority was to improve the network’s communication capacity and reach external supporters and markets.

One of the initial results was a Knowledge Management £t Storytelling workshop led by Danaqa and organised in Trinidad in July 2014.

The workshop aimed to raise awareness among CANROP stakeholders about the potential of using knowledge management to drive entrepreneurship and develop greater food and nutrition security. Hie workshop sought to gradually build on participants’ experiences and knowledge. During the three-day workshop, participants worked together to identify key issues and opportunities that need to be addressed and also used the opportunity to share their experiences and learn from each other.

Faumuina Tafuna’i of Women in Business Development Incorporated, for example, shared her experience in Samoa, where her organisation has used a positive news approach to help elevate farming as an honourable, exciting and innovative occupation. One of the key topics discussed at the workshop was how to use a storytelling approach to reach farmers, markets and governments.

Workshop participants also agreed that there is a need to develop a common vision and value, create a database, and

decide how to use social media tools and who would undertake specific tasks to have a more profound impact on policy.

Drawing from the workshops’ recommendations, CANROP started a series of activities to improve their members’ communication and knowledge skills. These included:

  • The establishment of a website directly managed and maintained by CANROP members, as a main showcase for sharing best practices, promoting products, news and events, and publications
  • The development and creation of a dynamic Facebook page and Twitter account as key tools for both internal and external networking and keeping stakeholders informed about the latest activities
  • Continuous ICT training to ensure that members are able to update the network’s social tools
  • Improving stakeholder connections through stakeholder analysis, strategic alliances at leadership level, and becoming more aware of stakeholders’ needs and demands

Hilda Vaughan, an agriculturist from Jamaica and member of the Jamaica Network of Rural Women’s Producers (JNRWP), who attended the workshop and eventually became an administrator of the CANROP Facebook page, said that ‘I have come to realise that my life’s work is really to be a change-maker, impacting my comer of the world one person at a time.’

During the 2014 Caribbean Week of Agriculture, CANROP actively promoted its network through presentations to ministers and media, and showcased products at its exhibition booth, this was also a good opportunity to meet with decision makers and funders, who have helped CANROP to expand to new markets.

On International Women’s Day in 2015 – the theme of which was ‘make it happen’ – CANROP showcased a series of ‘image messages’ in recognition of the work of Caribbean rural women producers. Since then, CANROP’s work has put more emphasis on the importance of knowledge management as a tool for supporting information and sharing experiences among its members.

Find out more about the women of CANROP on Facebook and follow the twitter conversation with the hashtag #weareCANROP.

Copyright © 2016, CTA. Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation

CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.