Bringing women into value chains in Africa

08/03/2019 - 

With Sweden’s contribution through the FMM, FAO was able to provide technical assistance and policy support to seven countries in Africa, boosting their efforts to make agribusinesses and food value chains more inclusive and improve rural women’s access to local and national markets. Running from 2013 through 2018, the project has directly supported female actors in rural small-scale value chains, mainly through women’s associations, cooperatives, unions and farmers’ groups. More specifically, the initiative assisted horticultural producers and processors in Ethiopia, dairy producers in Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, fish smokers in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, and clam collectors in Tunisia. It also supported cassava processors in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana and boosted small-scale crossborder trade of agricultural products in Rwanda.

The project has strengthened the capacities and skills of women’s groups through trainings, knowledge-sharing events and study tours. FAO also provided specific support to allow women to improve market-oriented production, value-addition and commercialization, as well as to develop their enterprise, build business-to-business linkages and increase their access to finance.

To improve the enabling environment for gender-sensitive value chains, FAO has adopted a multilevel approach: coupling advocacy work with regional and continental bodies, such as the African Union; and developing the capacity of policy-makers from ministries and national institutions to provide efficient services to actors in women’s agrifood value chains and to address gender inequalities. This included several training programmes and exchange visits for decision-makers and national extension workers. Experiences from the project implementation have informed new knowledge tools, including guidelines for practitioners and policy-makers on how to develop gender-sensitive value chains, and an e-learning package developed in collaboration with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

Shortening the value chain - lessons from interventions in Tunisia’s clam sector

Houda is a clam collector in Tunisia’s southeastern Zaboussa region. Some 4 000 women in this region make a living from clam production - a sector that yields some 700 tonnes each year, the majority of which is sold abroad.

Due to the lack of direct access to markets, Houda used to struggle to negotiate a decent price with intermediaries, whom she depended on to sell her harvest. Left at the whim of intermediaries, who knew that Houda had to sell at whatever price, she struggled to make a living. “Of course, we were exploited, but nobody dared to stand up to these intermediaries who were also close relatives and local powerful people,” she recalls.

FAO focused on empowering women collectors, while developing a strategic partnership with the private sector to improve women’s income by creating a more direct access to valuable markets.

On the ground, the process unfolds like this: First, a fixed price is set in advance to guarantee the predictability of payments and receivables for both the importer and the women collectors throughout the harvest season. Onsite, purchasers then make cash payments to the women collectors, who, in turn, can get a premium fee if they choose to collect only larger-sized clams. This also contributes to a more sustainable production system, as young clams get to mature.

Through the new Equity Link initiative, the price of 1 kilo of clams more than doubled, from USD 3.30 to USD 7.60 (from TND 8 to TND 18, in local currency), for the entire collection season. It has also made the clam value chain more transparent. Through the joint coordination of FAO and the Tunisian government, Tunisian women clam collectors have been given privileged access to the high-value European market, by way of an equity partnership with the Italian importer Pesca Pronta. A local export centre, meanwhile, ensures the clams are cleaned and comply with international food safety standards. The products carry a new label, developed specifically for Tunisian clams produced through the initiative, which informs consumers of the production practices relating to sustainability, gender inclusion and quality. The new price scheme has considerably increased Houda’s income: “it encourages us to make additional efforts so we can improve our families’ standard of living,” she says.

Contribution: SEK 35.4 million (USD 3.9 million)

Beneficiaries: small-scale female food processors in selected countries

Location: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Tunisia

Duration: 2013-2018

Results: Women’s capacities strengthened through training Women improved market-oriented production Women added value to their raw products Women increased their access to finance

Photo: Tunisia - Women weighing clams after a day collecting them in the sea shallows. ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano