Empowering women in integrated crop-livestock farming through innovation platforms: Experience in semi-arid Zimbabwe
This brief (PDF) by ICRISAT proposes that engaging women through innovation platforms (IPs) in the inclusive processes of technology and market development can accelerate transitions
towards greater sustainability, food security, nutrition, education and health. In rural Zimbabwe, women farmers face multiple challenges such as degraded soil, lack of labor, inaccessible/far-off markets to sell their produce/livestock, inadequate supplies of resources (seeds/fertilizers), as also climate change-related issues such as frequent droughts and dry spells. Innovation platforms that support integrated crop-and-livestock systems and particularly increase women farmers’ ability to grow and monetize high-value crops and livestock, empower women in agriculture significantly. They can amplify their voice in exploring opportunities, find solutions to their challenges and ultimately improve their competence, confidence, and standing in their community and family. Market development can reduce gender inequalities. When women have better access to markets, inputs, machinery and knowledge, their position is reinforced. Their contribution to total incomes increases, as does their decision-making power and confidence. Sustainable development comes with greater gender parity in farm and household management. Gender-sensitive innovation platforms support sustainable rural development as they not only build more productive and resilient farms, more profitable and inclusive value chains, but also stronger families and communities. Farming communities, local government, development and research are beginning to realize the potential for economic growth and women empowerment. It is proposed to promote the cascading effects in a market-oriented context. Market incentives must stimulate farmers working together and minimizing transaction costs. Better organized farmers will become more attractive partners for the private sector. Governments should be convinced to reduce cost of compliance, and support and generate significant revenue from value chains. Innovation platforms are important to keep the dialog open among women and men farmers, traders, extension personnel, government and research, providing feedback for planning and adaptation processes in the longer term.