The Role of Women in Agriculture
According to 2018 UN FAO statistics, women in Southern Africa make up 40% of the agribusiness workforce. Yet while they are responsible for growing over 70% of Africa’s food, they often have few rights over the land they tend. Additionally, women, above other demographics, often lack the education and skills necessary to access, use the data and technologies that would both be of benefit to them and to wider communities - in helping to address food security and nutrition challenges. Women are less likely to pursue careers in STEM sectors, making up less than 15% of the workforce involved in technology. Women are set at a disadvantage, with less opportunities to develop their skills in comparison to their male counterparts, leading to a growing gender gap in STEM skills and professions.
The Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) took place in Cape Town from 29-30 October 2019. The event aims to promote the growth of female owned and led businesses on the African Continent, in support of economic growth in the region. AWIEF, led by an organisation of the same name, is a prestigious platform that sees global thought leaders, industry experts, policymakers, academics, development organisations and investors gather to discuss and collaborate in a combined effort to boost Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. The organisation runs several programmes for women across the continent. Notably the Growth Accelerator Programme for getting businesses “investment ready”; the FemBioBiz Accelerator Programme in partnership with HIVOS and NEPAD-SANBio, which builds and supports the growth of women-owned and led businesses in the health and agricultural biotech field and other biosciences, with impact on health, nutrition and food security; and the #VALUE4HER programme, in partnership with GODAN partners the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), an EU-funded institution in The Netherlands, which works to strengthen women’s agribusiness enterprises in Africa.
GODAN Executive Director, André Laperrière, attended the conference as one of the key speakers in the roundtable discussion on "Digitalisation: Breaking Barriers to Drive Agribusinesses for Women in Africa," on the first day of the event. The roundtable discussion centred around ways to tackle issues facing women in the agricultural industry, including how technology could be leveraged to facilitate the empowerment of females in agribusiness. Mr Laperrière explored the benefits of the digital economy and how it can be used to increase the participation of women in agribusiness. It is critical that women are given more opportunity to participate in the digital revolution, bringing a wider skillset to the industry, along with improved economic performance.
Speaking about his appearance at AWIEF, Andre Laperrière, said: “It was an honour for GODAN to be present at this year’s AWIEF conference in which we were able to explore how digitalisation can nurture an environment which will allow women to flourish in the agricultural industry. The topic of the blatant disadvantages and challenges women face in succesfully accessing and using data is an important one. Breaking down these barriers will allow women to use open data for their own empowerment."