Empower rural women to boost food security

Veronica Akinyi working on her groundnuts farm

Veronica Akinyi working on her groundnuts farm in Siaya County. She has been a groundnuts farmer since 2017, a venture she says serves her subsistence needs more than business purposes.

Photo credit: Rachel Kibui | Nation Media Group

In the global agriculture landscape, the unsung heroine — a rural woman, particularly a smallholder farmer —plays a pivotal role in ensuring sustainable and resilient food systems.

These stories, often overlooked, are tales of empowerment, innovation and positive community impact. These success stories contribute to a larger narrative of inclusivity in agriculture.

By empowering the often-overlooked stakeholders, we can create a robust, sustainable and resilient food system.

In our recent endeavors, female farmers involved in Mercy CorpsAgriFin programme through the partners we work with reported a substantial reduction in financial distress when crops failed.

The insurance payouts provided a much-needed buffer, enabling them to reinvest and expand their farming activities, effectively breaking the cycle of poverty.

In today's digitised world, digital literacy is paramount for rural women. Being digitally literate enables them to access information, financial tools, and markets more efficiently. Organisations are now focusing on providing digital training specifically tailored to the needs of these women.

The recent Bima Pima initiative demonstrates how digital financial services empower women to manage their agricultural risks better.

Several initiatives showcased in recent events emphasise building digital skills for smallholder farmers such as Digital Green, a global development organisation utilises technology to train farmers through video demonstrations, showcasing best practices in agriculture disseminated through community gatherings.

We also have Farm.ink, which is developing mobile solutions to connect farmers with vital agricultural and market information. And lastly, Hello Tractor, which is an app allowing farmers to rent machinery using SMS, promotes digital literacy among farmers.

Their financial independence boosts local economies. Socially, their empowerment leads to more inclusive decision-making, better child-rearing practices, and improved community health.

In Tanzania, women rice farmers in the Morogoro region have organized into cooperative societies, adopting modern farming techniques and accessing credit through mobile banking, leading to increased yields and improved living standards.

To empower rural women in agriculture, culturally sensitive and inclusive initiatives are crucial. These initiatives should respect and align with local customs, ensuring acceptance and relevance.

Affordable finance, capacity building, market access, and a participatory approach in decision-making processes are key considerations for the future.

Collaboration among organisations and stakeholders, fostered through shared goals, transparent communication, resource pooling, and continuous learning, is critical in addressing emerging challenges and opportunities.

On this International Day of Rural Women, let's recognise and honour the indomitable spirit of women in agriculture.

- The writer is Deputy Programme Director, Mercy Corps AgriFin