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Harnessing the power of ICTs to enhance women smallholder farmer productivity and access to markets

Closing the digital gender gap: women farmers in South Africa receive ICT training under the “She Will Connect” programme.

© FAO / Steven Lazaro

Harnessing the power of information communication technologies to improve smallholder production and productivity is one way of improving food security. Additionally, supporting the use of ICTs by women, for example internet and SMS, MMS messages reduces the gender digital gap and improves emerging farmers' access to information and markets. It was in this regard that 48 women entrepreneurs from Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal Provinces of South Africa underwent a digital training in the course of 2015.

The 48 women farmers underwent the training were trained under the “She Will Connect” programme. Partners in the programme have joined hands to reduce the digital gender gap through providing digital literacy training, online peer networks and gender relevant content. As part of the programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and representatives from the local Mpumalanga and Kwazulu Natal Departments of Agriculture handed over a total of twenty-four (24) laptops and certificates to women farmers. 

“It is impossible for agricultural officials to claim to know all the information needs of the farmers, especially in an information dependent sector like agriculture where there are new and rather complex problems facing farmers everyday” said a DAFF representative Ms Cadora Rachidi who went on to thank UN Women and FAO for the presentation of the laptops.

FAO, through Ms Yolanda Ntlakaza, noted that the agriculture sector is underperforming in many developing countries in part because women are not provided the same access to resources and opportunities they need to be productive. “This gender gap imposes real costs on society in terms of lost agricultural output, food security and economic growth,” she said. Promoting gender equality is not only good for women; it is also good for agricultural development. Women are known to make significant contributions to the rural economy in all developing country regions, with varying roles, yet they are still faced with challenges such as  (a), operating on smaller farms than their male counterparts, (b), keep fewer livestock, in fact limited to chickens, (c), low education levels, (d) less access to credit and other financial services aid), lower wages for equal work

FAO’s approaches to address this gender gap include:

  • Eliminating discrimination against women in access to agricultural resources, education, extension and financial services and labour markets.
  • Investing in labour–saving technologies.
  • Facilitating the participation of women in flexible, efficient and fair rural labour markets.
  • Using capacity-building using tools such as those pioneered by FAO's Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis programme.
  • Collecting, analysing and disseminating of sex-disaggregated data and statistics used in policy-making.

FAO continues its commitment to support the country in developing gender-responsive projects. “These graduates that you see in front of you here will go on to become trainers-of-trainers”, said Ms Ayanda Mvimbi from UN Women Multi Country in Pretoria.




FAO Communications - South Africa

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