Earlier this week, AGRA unveiled its 5-year strategy towards boosting food security and smallholder farmer resilience in Kenya. The strategy aligns with Kenya’s Vision 2030 blueprint for long-term development and is built on the achievements and lessons from AGRA’s 2.0 strategy. AGRA is an institution that has been working here in Kenya for the last 15 years, supporting farmers, local governments, and private sector to ensure that we have a viable ecosystem for smallholder farmers to produce food.
As a country, we still have a significant level of concern about food security, given the numerous challenges that we still face in the agricultural sector. With a growing population and reliance on rain-fed agriculture for instance, Kenya is susceptible to fluctuations in weather patterns and climate change impacts. Farmers also grapple with limited access to quality seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation infrastructure, all of which further hamper agricultural productivity especially among small holder farmers. Other challenges are pests, crop diseases and post-harvest losses, leaving farmers in a vulnerable position that requires help from organizations like AGRA.
My colleagues and I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Agnes Kalibata on the organization’s operations and future plans, technology and innovation and what the strategy aims to achieve. In my case, we spoke about how gender equality and women empowerment contribute to food security and what women specific programs AGRA has.
According to Dr. Kalibata, AGRA recognizes the major contribution that women make in the agricultural value chain and food security. The organization is therefore committed to empowering them to improve their ventures and up their chances at successful farming. As nurturers, it is women who suffer more when children don’t have food or when nutrition is impacted. Women also have a harder time getting into business due to existing biases and it is therefore very crucial to find ways to strengthen engagement with them, not just in agriculture but in all sectors. There are no questions about the role of women as sources of food, as businesses and as mothers trying to ensure that their children get the right food.
There are programs that AGRA is running towards empowering women in agriculture and one of the most crucial one is developing women leaders in Africa. Finding these women and supporting them is extremely important and towards this, AGRA created the Center for Africa’s Leaders in Agriculture. This is an initiative that supports countries and sector leaders working towards inclusive agriculture transformation across Africa. AGRA sees to it that 50% of those getting into the program are women, and that 50% of the associated youth program are young women.
AGRA also runs Value 4 Her, an initiative geared towards strengthening women’s agribusiness enterprises and enhancing advocacy across Africa. Value For Her has over 3000 businesses where women are supported to understand challenges, and to grow ecosystems and supply systems with other women entrepreneurs.
The third very distinct intervention that AGRA has for women farmers is being very intentional in working with women to understand their unique challenges and to ensure access to knowledge and other inputs that work towards ensuring successful endevours.
It is great to see this kind of all-round support for women because other than farming, women are also in other areas of the agricultural value chain like processing, packaging, marketing and distribution. Their contributions to agricultural decision-making and policy formulation are equally significant, as they bring diverse perspectives and a deep understanding of the needs and challenges faced by rural communities.