Empowering smallholder women agriculturists in Africa

Research shows that growth led by agriculture is estimated to almost three times more effective in poverty reduction than industry or construction. In both India and Africa, millions of people still live in acute poverty and depend on the agricultural and the allied sectors, and a bulk of them are smallholder farmers and women. A majority of these women work as farm labourers, producers, marketers, or agricultural entrepreneurs. Lack of knowledge, technology, financial resources, and an increased vulnerability to climate change impacts agricultural productivity and food security of poor smallholders. 

The focus of the research will be on the work done by SEWA (a not-for-profit organisation) for empowering small holder women farmers, through developing supply chains, improving access to microcredit facilities, promoting agro-ecological farming methods including the use of community based local knowledge. SEWA has exported its unique model in Africa as a part of the World-Bank and FAO initiative for empowering smallholder farmers in Ghana and Ethiopia. The proposed project accesses SEWA’s contribution - existing potential to share proven capacity, knowledge and organizational skills for the economic empowerment of women (mainly small holder farmers) in both geographies.

It will study, firstly, how the solutions developed by SEWA could potentially be scaled up to achieve optimum impact in African contexts with different socio-political and cultural matrixes. Secondly, it aims to conduct a longitudinal study of select development interventions undertaken at the behest of the ministry of external affairs (MEA), government of India, for gender empowerment through; rural development, access to credit for productive activities; support for smallholder food producers; promotion of technology exchange, poverty alleviation, and clean energy – committed at the three India-Africa Forum Summits (2008, 2011 and 2015). 

The key objective of this research is to affirm that the development of women smallholder farmers can help poverty alleviation, and further the Global Goals of no poverty (no.1), zero hunger (no.2) and gender equality (no.5).

Quantitative and qualitative research methods will be used. First-hand data will be garnered through ethnographic tools, field visits at SEWA work sites, to build a longitudinal narratives or oral life stories of SEWA members across generations. Questionnaires, focus group discussions, interviews and workshops: of RUDIbens, SEWA bank members, technology and clean energy users, SALT- farmers and rainfall insured farmers, will help generate detailed information from a stratified sample in terms of the fall in poverty levels, increased income security, self-reliance and upscaling of women’s empowerment through the interventions by SEWA.

Name of researcher:
Dr. Renu Modi (Professor),Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai in association with SEWA, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India


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