Women farmers and entrepreneurs face higher entry barriers than men in most value chains, mainly because they have less access to productive inputs and resources.
Also, along the different stages of the value chains, women face impediments.
This could soon change after Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO Rwanda) launched a new project that will equip women in the country with necessary skills and knowledge to address some of the biggest challenges they face.
Dubbed “Enable Women to Benefit more Equally from Agri-food Value Chains”, the project seeks to equip women with managerial, organisational and technical skills so that they can operate their cooperatives efficiently.
“The project will focus on establishment and strengthening of women-led dairy cooperatives in four selected districts. Supported women will be equipped with appropriate skills to operate dairy cooperatives in an efficient, profitable and sustainable way,” said Dr Otto Vianney Muhinda, the project manager during the launch of the project at Hilltop Hotel.
The four selected districts include Rwamagana, Kayonza, Nyagatare and Gicumbi, and beyond providing skills, selected women will also receive relevant machinery and infrastructure.
According to Muhinda, who’s also the assistant representative in charge of programmes at FAO Rwanda, the project also comes to support some of the already existing national programmes.
“We thought we could bring some other agriculture activities to the existing national initiatives like the Integrated Development Programme model village, green houses, and one cow per family. The overall goal is to extend capacity to farmers. This project will particularly focus on women farmers and entrepreneurs,” he said.
While some farmers have lately been complaining of lack of access to markets for their milk production, Muhinda said the programme will address these challenges in the selected districts.
“Milk markets are lacking because of the quality of milk. If you don’t have quality milk, you cannot take it to milk collection centres. This project is, therefore, is going to equip them with relevant equipments for milking, transportation, and even cooling, among others,” Muhinda explained.
Empowering women entrepreneurs
Juliet Abatesi, one of the selected women entrepreneurs, said that they expect a lot from this project, highlighting machinery as one of the benefits.
“Of course we (women) face a lot of challenges along the value chains, one of them being lack of access to standard facilities. Once we get machinery and other equipment, our businesses will grow,” she said.
Abatesi processes milk into yoghurt in Nyagatare District and she’s among a few women who are doing this. She says there’s still gender gap.
“Personally, I would say that I’m one of the few women who are processing milk in Nyagatare. There’s still a gap between women and men who are doing farming. Such initiatives can help women realise their potential,” she added.
According to FAO, the project will also contribute toward realising women’s entrepreneurial potential through a dedicated enterprise development scheme tailored to their needs and focusing on diversification, innovation, quality and marketing.