Overcoming gender gaps in rural mechanization: Lessons from reaper-harvester service provision in Bangladesh
This policy brief (PDF) by Feed the Future explores gender dynamics in emerging markets for agricultural machinery service provision in Bangladesh. Custom hiring of labor- and cost-saving agricultural machinery services is increasingly common in South Asia. Results show that women benefit form managing and sometimes owning machinery services, as well as from the direct and indirect consequences of hiring such services to harvest their crops. However, a number of technical, economic and cultural barriers constrain women’s full participation in these benefits. For example, the lack of access to finance to invest in a machine, restrictions to be in public places to learn about new technologies and publicize the availability of reaper services, male operators refusing to work for women and a lack of family and community support. The policy briefs comes with a few suggestions to close the gender gap in machinery service provision: 1) Joint ownership and training to strengthen women’s business skills and self-confidence; 2) Leveraging women’s networks to expand the client base; 3) Well-targeted, smart subsidies to encourage women; 4) Leveraging credit, providing loans coupled with business support; 5) Group ownership of machines; 6) Mobile payments reducing travel time and risk collecting payments and; 7) Encourage men’s support for women in agricultural trainings and advertisements of machinery services. For reaper services, similar gender-based challenges are present: unequal opportunities to learn about services, gender restrictions in contacting service providers, and women are not prioritized by service providers. Joint learning, women’s groups, collective hiring and lower service provision costs are key. Others working on gender, agricultural technology, and rural entrepreneurship should all strengthen the inclusion of women, of example by considering joint ownership and training for husbands and wives, or by tapping into women’s networks to boost technology adoption.