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Sandton Welcomes the Women Farmers Program

United Nations Women, in partnership with the Vodacom Foundation, has brought the Women Farmers Programme to Sandton

Source: Fairways Review

The goal of the program is to allow women to take advantage of the Thunderbolt online casino fourth industrial revolution and become more involved in the agricultural value chain.


Support

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Vodacom group chief office of corporate affairs, described what’s at stake. “With this initiative, we will be able to support female farmers in staking their claim in the agriculture sector through the use of technology. This, in turn, can help reduce poverty, ensure food security and boost the industry’s contribution to the economy.”

The programme, as it spreads, will hopefully contribute greatly to the South African economy. The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries valued 2017/2018 agricultural production at R281 370 million.


Technology

The program provides a Vodacom-created app to participating farmers. The app will help them maintain and track their production, finances, contacts and sales in real-time. The Connect the Farmer app provides women with a detailed analysis of their products and services, said Anne Githuku-Shongwe, representative of UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office. “Our partnership with Vodacom is on digitising the female market. By putting this product in the hands of women, you are changing the game.”

Netshitenzhe added, “We want to connect the farmers across the value chain after realising that small businesses actually experience a lot of barriers to access resources.”


Beginnings

The programme was piloted by South African Women in Farming (Sawif) last year.  More than  600 small-holder female farmers, living in four different provinces, were provided with digital literacy training. According to Sawif president Deborah Motuka, “The digital and financial training from Vodacom is preparing us for bigger things and we are now confident in using digital platforms to transact, communicate and market out produce.”

During the second phase of the programme, the app will connect small-scale farmers to potential suppliers and larger enterprises. According to Netshitenzhe, “Vodacom is a purpose-led brand which understands that partnerships will transform our nation.”


Women’s Farmers Programme

The Womens Farmers Program was conceived in Rwanda as a way to change the lives of women farmers.  More than 70 percent of Rwandan women are engaged in farming activities but they don’t have the same access to markets, finance, production inputs or land as men. That puts women in the realm of subsistence farming.

For families that rely on the womens’ harvest as their main source of food and nutrition, the lack of access to technology and quality agricultural inputs doesn’t allow the farmers to achieve optimal crop diversity and yield.  The cycle continues as the nutritional security of their families is negatively impacted.

The Vodacom Foundation, together with United Nations Women, became aware that the key to unlocking a more secure future for these families involves making information available about innovative approaches to farming. The UN – Vodacom programme, “Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women.” attempts to address this issue by working with rural women and their communities to engage women in shaping laws, programmes and policies so that they can improve nutrition security while they establish sustainable livelihoods.

One participant who joined the Rwandan program in the early days, explained the impact on her life.  “Since joining the programme, the yield of my field has increased so much! For instance, I have learned how to plant beans in straight rows and how to use fertilizers. Where I needed 10 kg of bean seeds before, now I only need 3 kg for the same quantity of harvest. Having shared the knowledge gained from the programme with my husband, together we have increased the fertility of our land and multiplied our production.”

She described other benefits. “Through the programme, we learned how to build a water harvesting system, and now we have a small cistern behind our house which collects rain water from the roof. This has made a lot of difference. Before, we had to walk very far to collect water for farming, for our animals, cleaning and washing. Now we have a lot more time available for other activities, and the children do not have to go to fetch water anymore. We even have enough water to share with our neighbors.”


South Africa

The success of the Women Farmers programme has encouraged its funders to bring it to South Africa. The programme is being launched in South Africa in conjunction with UN Women and South African Women in Farming (SAWIF).  It was first brought to rural areas of Limpopo and KwaZulu Natal provinces and is how expanding to additional areas.

Takalani Netshitenzhe said “A study by the World Economic Forum shows that women account for nearly half of the world’s smallholder farmers and produce 70% of Africa’s food. While some research shows that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they would increase the yields of farms by 20%-30% and reduce hunger by up to 17%. As it can be seen, women are playing an active role in food production chain and our main objective with this programme, is to provide them with the necessary tools, so that more and more women can enter the lucrative sector and be part of the agriculture food supply chain and reap the economic benefits.”

Anne Githuku-Shongwe said: “Investing in women farmers has the potential to unlock economic growth – we know that globally women make up the majority of women small-holder farmers and if women had access to the same resources as men, they would increase their output by 30%. Gender inequality in the agricultural sector is effectively depriving the industry of the benefits that come from women participating equally in the sector including food security, job creation and income generation.”

“We are glad that the Vodacom Foundation has come on board to provide critical digital literacy skills training and ICT equipment to women farmers. This partnership together with the World Food Programme and SAWIF is an important step in ensuring that women farmers, particularly small-holder farmers in rural areas are equipped with the tools and knowledge to successfully participate in the agricultural value chain.”