Entrepreneurial skills to empower rural women in Cambodia

The objective of the FMM sub-programme is to contribute to closing the gender gap in agriculture by enhancing rural women’s economic empowerment and strengthening their crucial role in rural development, decision-making and in resilience building.

©FAO/Chann Tet

Between 20 and 24 September 2021, a group of 20 government officials and extension practitioners in Cambodia attended a virtual Training of Trainers (ToT) on Women’s Empowerment Farmer Business School (WE-FBS). The sessions were delivered in partnership with the Government of Cambodia, with funding support from the FAO Flexible Multi-partner Mechanism (FMM).

The event brought together technical personnel from Cambodia’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Ministry of Women Affairs (MoWA) and the MAFF-led Agriculture Services Programme for Innovation, Resilience and Extension (ASPIRE).

During the five days, participants were introduced to the WE-FBS approach and its relevance to agriculture and food security programmes. They learned about methodologies for a gender analysis of social norms and power relations, marketing systems, value chains, group dynamics, women’s leadership, business planning and record keeping. Furthermore, the training also enhanced the participants’ facilitation skills and ability to coordinate subsequent trainings.

WE-FBS is a gender transformative approach that aims to promote gender equality and rural women’s economic empowerment in agriculture, food security and nutrition, while increasing small-scale producers’ business profitability. It seeks to reinforce the capacities of female and male farmers to create profitable agricultural enterprises and, at the same time, transform gender relations in households, communities, and markets.

H.E. Hor Malin, MAFF’s Secretary of State and Head of the Ministry’s Gender and Children Working Group, expresses her full satisfaction with the event: “It has enabled the Master Trainers to strengthen the provision of transformative agribusiness services at the field level”. She also encouraged all Master Trainers to integrate the WE-FBS approach into other relevant projects and programmes of their institutions.

“Having good speaking skills is key to facilitate training sessions because we need to encourage and inspire others to learn,” said Sav Kimsoeurn, a participant from MoWA. “We will work to bring the contents of this training to beneficiaries at local level.”

The event was delivered purely online, in line with the present-day requirements for remote work. A mixed team of international and national FAO staff coordinated the sessions – with simultaneous interpretation between English and Khmer, replicating the successful experience of the first WE-FBS training held in Kenya in 2019.

“WE-FBS is the best gender transformative approach that I have come across in my seven years working for FAO,” said Queen Katembu, WE-FBS Coordinator at FAO Kenya. “It strengthens the capacity of rural communities to challenge the deeply rooted socio-cultural causes of rural gender inequalities, which in turn helps rural women to produce more and benefit equally with male farmers from existing market opportunities,” added Ms. Katembu, whose contribution to the planning and implementation of the event in Cambodia provided a good example of South-South Cooperation.

“I will share the knowledge that I have acquired during these sessions with colleagues in my department. This way, they will be able to integrate it in their own trainings”, said Vong Phalla, a participant from MAFF.
Vong Phalla’s plans are exactly what the ToT pursues: making people able to develop the capacities of others, following a cascade effect that ultimately reaches everybody. To ensure that lessons effectively reach the ultimate beneficiaries of the programme, FMM colleagues will monitor the whole process through regular engagement in and evaluation of subsequent trainings.

“We are enthusiastic to collaborate with MAFF and MoWA for the rollout of the WE-FBS in the provinces of Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey. This is a highly innovative approach and we are the first to implement it in Asia” said Sophana Chap, FAO’s national consultant on gender equality and rural women’s empowerment.

Mr. Antonio Schiavone, FAO Representative in Cambodia ad interim, explains: “The WE-FBS is unique as it looks at access to markets from a gender perspective. The sub-programme will combine a series of initiatives to tackle inequalities at different levels. Interventions will include guidance and capacity development on gender in agricultural policies and programmes, as well as the establishment of Dimitra Clubs for gender equality and community engagement.”

The objective of the FMM sub-programme is to contribute to closing the gender gap in agriculture by enhancing rural women’s economic empowerment and strengthening their crucial role in rural development, decision-making and in resilience building, as agents of transformative change. The initiative makes men key partners in unpacking gender stereotypes and biases, thereby promoting an inclusive culture that benefits the whole community. In addition to Cambodia and Kenya, the project will soon be rolled out in Senegal and Uganda.