SEATTLE — Africa has a lot of potential to increase its agricultural production and become self-sufficient. As it is, Africa imports a great deal of its food, and the imports cost the continent money that could be directed toward development. Each year, African nations import more than $50 billion worth of food, and the massive food import bill is not sustainable.
Importing so much food eliminates opportunities for job creation and especially impacts rural women and children, who make up a large part of Africa’s informal agricultural workforce. Overall, gender inequality costs sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year, and “improving women’s positions in agricultural value chains is vital for Africa’s economic development,” according to the U.S. Department of State.
Integrating Women into Global Value Chains
Inclusive agricultural value chains, which aim to integrate women and poor small-scale farmers into global value chains, will give African women new opportunities to participate in the marketplace and strengthen their communities. Integrating women requires government agencies and organizations to make changes in different areas within value chains, such as removing legal and regulatory barriers or directly training female farmers.
As in many other economic sectors, women represent an untapped agricultural market opportunity in Africa and their inclusion will expand African economies. Investing in social goods, such as health and education, circulates money within a community and stimulates economic growth and prosperity. According to the U.S. Department of State, women are more likely to invest most of their earnings in social goods. Women are also more prone to hiring other women, so investing in one woman can create jobs for dozens more.
Senegal’s Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains
Half of Senegal’s food comes from imports, but Senegal is setting an example for other African countries by working toward inclusive agricultural value chains. Senegalese Ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Momar Diop, has reported that Senegal gathers gender-disaggregated data to inform its agricultural policies and help integrate female farmers by increasing their access to technology and production inputs.
Senegal’s government has also implemented a capacity-building program in its mango sector that focuses on female farmers. The program helps women harvest, collect and package their mangoes and increases the overall competitiveness of the sector in global markets.
In developing Senegal’s inclusive agricultural value chains, partnerships are key. Senegal’s government has partnered with the private sector, civil societies and international organizations, such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in order to achieve its goals.
In addition to the country’s own programs, the IFAD spent six years working on Senegal’s inclusive agricultural value chains from 2008 to 2014. IFAD’s Agricultural Value Chains Support Project (PAFA) focused efforts in Senegal’s groundnut basin, where rural poverty had been spreading due to declines in the global groundnut market. The basin had potential for agricultural diversification and PAFA was designed to help small-scale farmers take advantage of new markets.
PAFA aimed to integrate farmers into profitable value chains by helping small-scale producers. The project specifically targeted three groups: vulnerable small-scale farmers with limited resources, underemployed young people and women. PAFA also supported market operators who could help integrate the target groups into profitable value chains, as well as grassroots organizations that could get the targets groups involved at regional and national levels.
As of PAFA’s completion in 2014, the project had directly benefited 25,380 households, well over PAFA’s initial target number. PAFA helped form direct contracts between market operators and 18,910 households, with women representing 62 percent of beneficiaries. IFAD has made remarkable progress toward gender equality and reducing poverty by funding Senegal’s inclusive agricultural value chains.
– Kathryn Quelle