About rural women’s participation in agriculture

As the world celebrated the International Day of Rural women on  October 15 , we were reminded of the critical role and contribution of rural women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

For the last two decades, there has been a growing move in developing countries like Uganda to align agriculture with the value-chain model to enhance efficiency in the sector. The idea of value chains in agriculture illustrates all the activities necessary to move an agricultural product from production to final consumption. Agricultural value chains have two ends: on one end are the producers – the farmers who grow crops and on the other  end are the consumers who “eat, drink, wear and use the final products.

In between are “thousands of men and women, and small and large businesses” performing  distinct but interconnected roles along the value chain by “buying, selling, processing, transporting, storing, checking, and packaging” the product. In those stages, there are several actors including rural women who are very active especially in the pre-production and production stages of the value chain which includes land preparation, planting, weeding, and harvesting with 87 percent of rural women small holder farmers providing the labour in agricultural sector in Uganda (UBOS 2022).

These stages of the value chain, though very critical, consume a lot of time and energy and reap less financial benefits.

The subsequent processes in the value chain relegate rural women small holder farmers to the margins as the men take over all the final stages that reap financial benefits. Decisions at the post-production phases including for example marketing, price negotiations as well as decisions on what to produce, the quantity to be sold and the use of the proceeds from the sale are usually male dominated.

Therefore unfortunately, the emergence of international trade and global value chains has not created opportunities for many people in the developing world especially the poor, living and working on small agricultural land plots smaller than two hectares of land, most of these being rural women.  Rural women continue to face a number of challenges that limit their effective participation and benefit in agricultural trade and value chains including for instance; existing harmful and discriminatory social and gender norms and practices against women and girls that limit their ability to access, own or make decisions on key productive assets like land or proceeds from the land. Additionally, rural women small holder farmers are now faced with the global challenge of climate change.

They have limited access to markets for their produce, have low bargaining power, low returns, low and fluctuating prices for their produce,  exclusion from digital economy, limited access to financial resources like credit, lack of access to quality farm inputs like seeds and fertilisers, counterfeit farm inputs and the burden of care work.

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