Supporting Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems (RAI)

FAO conducts a capacity assessment on responsible agricultural investments and gender in Sierra Leone


FAO carried out its first virtual capacity assessment on responsible investments in agriculture and food systems (RAI) and gender in Sierra Leone. The goal was to assess in a participatory way the existing and needed capacities in the country to enhance RAI that empowers women and promote gender equality, and to elaborate a roadmap to accelerate action at the country level.  

The five-week multi-stakeholder workshop brought together 24 representatives of different institutions and organizations working in the areas of agricultural development, investment and/or gender in Sierra Leone. The institutions comprised government ministries and agencies, financial institutions, international development agencies, national and international NGOs, civil society, producers’ and women’s organizations, as well as the private sectorIt took place from 26 October to 30 November 2020. 

“The entire session was educative and participatory” confirmed Ella Margai, Gender Youth Program Officer from Solidaridad. 

The importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in agricultural investments 

Gender-responsive agricultural investments can improve agricultural outputproductivity, and food security and nutrition, thus contributing to sustainable development. However, entrenched gender inequalities negatively affect agricultural production and jeopardize food security and nutrition. 

In Africa, 80 percent of agricultural production comes from small farmers, who are mostly rural womenResearch has shown that if women had the same access to resources as men, on-farm yields could increase by 20 to 30 percent, which could decrease the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent (FAO, 2011). 

The CFS Principles for Responsible Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS RAI) incorporate gender equality and women’s empowerment both as a key crosscutting dimension and as a dedicated principle (Principle 3 – Gender equality and women’s empowerment). As such, familiarizing the different stakeholders with this framework, and aligning the policy, legal and incentive frameworks at the country level are fundamental steps to foster gender-responsive investment in agriculture.   

Piloting a new virtual methodology 

Due to restrictions on travel and gatherings related to the COVID-19 pandemic, FAO converted its well-established face-to-face capacity assessment methodology into a virtual process. This process combined live sessions via Zoom with individual, asynchronous learning activities and group work. In order to also include the views of rural women who could not participate in the virtual workshop, the FAO country office conducted preliminary consultations with 40 women leaders prior to the launch of the workshop. 

Findings of the capacity assessment workshop 

During the workshopthe participants identified the need to strengthen the active participation of women's organizations in existing investment-related coordination mechanisms as well as to review key policies and laws related to agricultural investment from a gender perspective, to improve their awareness in rural areas as well as their implementation. Moreoverthe availability and accessibility of agricultural investment-related services need to be improved for rural women. 

Kate Mathias, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at MIRO Forestry Company SL Ltd., noted that the assessment helped her to better understand the situation specific to Sierra Leone. In the same line, Dr. Bernadette Lahai, CEO of the Ndolegbeh Integrated Agricultural Development Company and member of the 50/50 Groupmentioned that her main takeaway of the workshop was “the need to properly analyze and understand beneficiaries' context in order to successfully strategize any solution to their problems.” 

Action plan and next steps 

To address the gaps and needs identified throughout the assessment, the participants elaborated a draft action planThis action plan outlines the next steps to improve the situation in Sierra Leone and strengthen capacities to enhance and stimulate responsible and gender-responsive investments in agriculture and food systems.  

The specific actions are structured along with three strategic objectives: 

  1. Foster inclusive decision-making related to gender-responsive investments in agriculture and food systems in Sierra Leone. 

  1. Foster gender-responsiveness of the policy, legal and incentive frameworks for gender-responsive agricultural investments in Sierra Leone. 

  1. Improve services and organizations to empower women and promote gender equality in agricultural investments in Sierra Leone. 

Mariama Turay, Head of the Gender in Agriculture and Nutrition Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, also confirmed that “the findings will help me to address some of the gaps in order to enhance an achievable gender implementation programmes in the Ministry of Agriculture.” 

The elaboration of this draft action plan is an important first step to enhance gender-responsive agricultural investments in Sierra Leone. In the next months, the action plan will need to be further refined, validated and shared with a broader audience.