Research and statistics state that women constitute around 40% of the agricultural labour force in the ACP region and while they make essential contributions to rural economies and the growing advancements in digitalisation – the gender gap in access to information communication technologies (ICTs) continue to widen. This means women farmers, particularly in rural areas, experience difficulties accessing information, financial products and services and markets. They also often do not participate in relevant policy-making.
CTA has previously supported projects to address some of the challenges women in agriculture face, including access to markets, finance and other business services across ACP countries. Launched in 2018, VALUE4HER is a new joint initiative between CTA, the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) and the African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN), which aims to establish an agribusiness intelligence network, harnessing the power of ICTs to foster better links with markets, supply chains and service providers, including financing partners. VALUE4HER will help women to develop agribusinesses and to gain more income from agri-food markets. Equally, CTA developed the Pitch AgriHack Talent initiative, which aims at accelerating e-agriculture entrepreneurship across the ACP countries. It has seen a 60% increase in women participating in 2017 up from 30% in previous years.
In 2018, CTA ran perception survey on Gender, Digitisation and Agriculture, in collaboration with ACP Young Professionals Network (ACP YPN). The survey was a follow up to CTA’s earlier 2002 Report on ‘Gender, ICTs and Agriculture’. The results of the survey show that the digital divide remains overall. An infographic of some of the findings can be found in this issue of ICT Update. The report makes several recommendations including :
- ensure applications are made available in mother tongue;
- ensure women are consulted during the conception of agricultural digital solutions;
- increase digital literacy training for women;
- mainstream gender-disaggregated data collection in all projects and in national ICT related statistics;
- leverage popular communication channels such as WhatsApp to reach more communities and women with agricultural information.
This issue of ICT Update is in collaboration with ACP YPN. ACP YPN has been pioneering the inclusion of youth experts in policy-making, within the EU-ACP partnership since 2014 and more recently at the level of the UN.
ACP YPN works across three inter-linked pillars: trade and agriculture, environment and climate change education and employment, and the three cross-cutting themes of youth entrepreneurship, women and gender equality, and digital inclusion and innovation. ACP YPN has opened up new spaces for young people to directly connect with members of the EU and ACP parliaments since launching the Youth Forum of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assemblies in June 2016 and as the only youth network at the EU’s Economic & Social Committee. In particular, ACP YPN partners with COLEACP and CTA – the two leading institutions working on agriculture in the EU-ACP framework – to ensure the issue of ‘youth and agriculture’ is adequately addressed.
This issue has been the fruit of a joint collaboration, led by two young women from CTA and ACP YPN. We have identified three categories of women for this issue that we term, the ‘enablers’, the ‘users’ and ‘women leading ICT driven businesses’.
For the ‘women leading in ICT-driven business’, we feature two contributions. We catch up with Naledi Magowe, co-founder and CMO, Brastorne Enterprises, and former CTA AgriHack winner, whose mAgri platform in Botswana is set to go regional in the coming months. As one of the few female drone-pilots, Rose Funja’s contribution shows how she is travelling to new frontiers in order to get women trained and equipped in STEM subjects in both rural and academic contexts via her start-up, Agrinfo.
Secondly, we feature three examples of ‘users’ who benefit from technological tools and applications in their farmers’ initiatives.
Ezinne Merianchris Emeana’s contribution shows how agro-ecology and tech can be combined and explains its benefits for women farmers in Nigeria. Although remotely located on the Samoan island of Savai’i, Gillian Stewart’s work at Women in Business shows how ICT applications can boost income and improve livelihoods of even the most distant farmers’ community. The contribution from Keithlin Caroo shows how her initiative to set-up ‘Helen’s Daughters’ in St. Lucia is linking the tourism and agriculture sectors through innovative tech tools in order to benefit female farmers.
Thirdly, we feature the ‘enablers’ who use the power of their networks to empower women farmer’s use of ICTs and its linkage to policy.
Dr. Dorothy Okello, Chairperson, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) provides an insight into how a number of targeted women-farmer initiatives and multi-stakeholder partnerships boost income and productivity. Fatma Ben Rejeb, CEO, Pan-African Farmers’ Organisation gave us an exclusive interview on the Integrated Rural Development Strategy of the organisation and explains how rural women are fully involved within it. Lastly, Ana Brandusescu with her colleague, Nnenna Nwakanma from the Web Foundation, and their partners, provide key insights into a ‘closed data culture’ in their recent report on ‘Is open data working for women in Africa?’.
Overall, the contributions in this issue aim to give stakeholders an overview of some of the most innovative and change-making examples of gender-targeted agricultural initiatives which harness the opportunities of digitalisation and contribute to tackling the divide impacting ‘women-rural-digital’ developments in agriculture.