Author: Rose Nduta - Contributors: Lotte-Marie Brouwer and Patrick Guyer
Applying a needs-based approach in 2SCALE’s Aya initiative
Women across the globe play significant roles in agricultural value chains. They play central roles, from production to post-harvest processing - which are often key determinants of the size and quality of the final agri produce. However, women are left out from the decision-making process about input provision and use, crop production, harvesting, processing and storage. Women are heavily under-represented in transportation, marketing, and sales across Africa. Furthermore, women in agribusiness across Africa face a “triple-burden” of responsibilities to their businesses, families, and communities, leaving them far less time than most men to invest in their businesses. To respond to these inequities, Aya - an initiative of the 2SCALE program - has been engaging women agribusiness entrepreneurs in training and networking across Africa since 2018. Training women on the various ways to be actively involved as key players in all the value chains is a key step towards enabling them to utilise their potential in making the agri-value chain more gender-equal. Women are currently crucial players but not key decision-makers. Equal participation of women in agri-foods also strengthens the supply base and helps unleash new markets (OECD, 2021 & Kolb et al., 2016).
The Aya difference: inspiring, training and connecting women entrepreneurs across Africa
There are many agribusiness entrepreneurship projects focused on providing information, knowledge and training to women, but most suffer from serious shortcomings. For example, some barriers limit women from actively participating in these programs. Among them are domestic responsibilities, travel difficulties, financial barriers, discriminatory social norms, and lack of information about available opportunities. Adoption of gender-sensitive approaches - those that take into account the specific needs, concerns and abilities of women and men - in the design and delivery of these programs is a prerequisite to reaching out to a broad and diverse pool of women agri-entrepreneurs (OECD, 2021 & Kolb et al., 2016).What makes Aya different is that it aims to inspire, train and connect women in agribusiness across the 10 African countries implementing 2SCALE. Aya programming and support is based on a detailed gender-smart needs assessment of what women participating in the program want and need, in contrast to one-size-fits-all support models. The needs assessment is focused on six elements: decision making, collective action, leadership, resources, critical consciousness, and bodily integrity (Van Eerdewijk et al. 2017). Women in Aya are key players across different agricultural value chains, including grains like sorghum, rice, wheat, teff and maize as well as soybean, nuts, vegetables, fruits, spices, poultry, livestock, dairy, honey, cassava, and plantain. Women are actively involved as producers (smallholder farmers), processors (business champions), and distributors of the products across the aforementioned value chains.