Indigenous vegetable production and the economic empowerment of rural women in Africa: Reality, prospects, and challenges in Rwanda
This study (PDF) in IK: Other ways of knowing explores the role of rural women in the production of indigenous vegetables in Rwanda, especially in view of the preponderance of, and the consumer preference for, modern exotic vegetables in the country’s recent history. Furthermore, the study probes into the nutritional and economic importance of indigenous vegetables in Rwanda, with emphasis on how rural women stand to expand their earning power by upgrading their indigenous vegetable production capacity. The study reveals that rural women producing indigenous vegetables face many challenges, most of which are rooted in the absence of strong support by either government agencies or development partners involved in rural development. While the Rwandan government is heavily involved in rural development, with an emphasis on agriculture, recognition of the indigenous vegetables sector in government policies and decision has yet to be seen. Several development partners are also active in rural Rwanda, but most have shown a proclivity for training women on the production of exotic vegetables. On another hand, rural women producing indigenous vegetables are not organized and are unable to present a strong platform that is capable of influencing policy and project decisions. Formation of cooperatives and building of inter-community networks will go a long way in carving out a voice for rural women producing indigenous vegetables within the circles of government agencies and development partners. Government agencies and development partners who desire to strengthen production capacities and become involved with these vegetables will do so through training; provision of improved technology; disease and pest control; sensitization of potential consumers; addressing land-use matters; infrastructural development; and many more. In all, strengthening the capacity of rural women producing indigenous vegetables, in addition to taking measures to expand the market, will be strategic to the advancement of rural Rwanda and Africa in the coming decades.