Despite accounting for 40 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide, women’s participation in agribusiness is often limited to low-profit production.
However, female agripreneurs across Africa will now be able to connect, network and grow their businesses thanks to the new VALUE4HERConnect platform.
More than 400 women have signed up to Africa’s first online platform for female agripreneurs that will bring together those in agriculture in a virtual community and serve as an important business resource for members.
The network, launched by African Women Agribusiness Network Afrika (AWAN-Afrika) is the first continental conference and VALUE4HER fair that is happening in Nairobi, as part of a programme led by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation to empower women in agriculture.
Speaking Friday during the launch, Ministry of Agriculture Assistant Director Jacinta Ngwiri said that for a long time, women in Kenya and in the continent have just been mere producers, but there is need to move this a notch higher and empower women to move from just being producers of foods, crops, livestock and fisheries to agribusiness which brings money for the family, income for the household, the country and also for the continent.
“This continent has just been exporting and sending out in terms of food produce, cash crops and so forth. We want now to move out of that and do more in agribusiness, where we can sell out from our countries and the continent more finished products that can fetch more money,” she said.
Through the online network, the assistant director said, women are going to be better organized and change their mindset given the confidence to move their potentials, so that they can deliver more in agriculture just beyond the production aspect.
As government, the assistant director said Kenya has an existing policy that is being implemented to support women and youth programmes in terms of improving labour, giving information, enhancing networking and also access to market in various areas from grassroots, going all the way from national level to continental level.
“In general we have programmes reaching women in all levels depending on their capacity and this is all aimed at improving their untapped potential so as to turn around agricultural production in this country,” she said.
In terms of the challenges, Ngwiri said access to enough credit, which is supposed to help women to mobilize their potential and have higher output is still a problem.
“We are happy that the government has been able to implement the women fund where women and youth are able to access credit in a cheaper way than getting this money from the bank,” she said.
Ngwiri also explained that the donors are also making sure that the programmes that they are implementing were gender sensitive and accessible to women and youth in a more targeted way.
“We have specific targeted initiatives and programmes that are going to be aggregated within various ministries and with government policies to mainstream gender in all ministry’s, every agency has a budget targeted initiative that can support women and more specific to youth.
Ngwiri further urged women to mobilize themselves in various groups and cooperatives to enable them access resources easily and be able to implement very tangible and far reaching projects.
Director of African Women Association Network, Beatrice Gakumba said it was about time that the African citizens took responsibility of being in the forefront to push for those changes to promote cross border programmes in addressing tariff barriers inhibiting them to free movement.
She explained that through the continental free area where there are 27 out of 33 countries that have signed for free movement, women can grab and utilize the free space.
“Today, we have this opportunity to accelerate manufacturing and intra- African trade of value-added products, moving from commodity-based economies and exports to economic diversification and high-value exports,” said Gakumba, adding that the demand was high.
Senior Programme Coordinator, Value Chains and Agribusiness, Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, said the App will be assist mama mbogas to graduate and come to a level where they can pull out more products because there was plenty of land and market to produce more commodities.
“While women are key players in agriculture, they often face challenges at the business end,” she said, but added that with VALUE4HERConnect, they now have access to buyers, investment and capacity building opportunities, which will ultimately help them to form strategic partnerships towards accessing global markets for increased incomes.
The two day forum is to provide information on financing and opportunities for training women agripreneurs from 21 African countries who gathered for master classes and pitching opportunities to showcase their businesses and try to secure regional and global business deals.
By Wangari Ndirangu