Why is it important for women to access markets? While the body of international research continues to grow around this question, CARE’s network of paraprofessionals in the Pathways Tanzania program shared their own simple but clear answer during the pre-season orientation to the Pathways Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) held from September 9-13th in Masasi, Tanzania :
For women farmers, however, the barriers to accessing markets and gaining control over family income are steep. The Pathways Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) represents a new set of tools for farmers that will support women farmers in building skills and coordinating their efforts to improve access to input and output markets, and address some of the gender beliefs and household barriers that prevent women from greater engagement in the markets and control over financial decisions.
From September 9th to 13th, the CARE Tanzania team and 63 paraprofessionals and extension agents were joined by Jemimah (Program Director) and Maureen (Senior Advisor for Agriculture) for the pre-season orientation to the FFBS, which gave participants an important chance to delve into all components of the program—sustainable agriculture, marketing, nutrition, gender, and monitoring—and to understand how they fit together in the season.
The marketing-gender link
Elements of the “B”, or business, component of the FFBS training (focusing on markets) included the introduction of tools for estimating yield, cost of production, as well as facilitated group brainstorms around introducing village-level market committees. The committees will be elected by the farmers this October and will play a critical role in advancing the vision for markets articulated during the training. The Pathways Tanzania marketing team is currently hard at work in preparing for the establishment of these market committees, which will act as an information hub and interface between input suppliers, buyers and farmers.
The training participants agreed unanimously that the committee should be composed of three women and two men.
“This is an opportunity for women to build confidence and prove that they can gain the respect of the community,” said Furaha (right) , a paraprofessional participating in the training.
Restituta (below), an agricultural extension worker, was silent for some time before echoing this thought: “Changes do not happen in one day. But women need to be given a chance to lead.”
Throughout the marketing training, the participants broke out into small groups, and brainstormed on a number of issues surrounding women and markets. “Women in particular cannot access input markets. Our men do not trust us to negotiate or to have the knowledge about what to buy,” explained Restituta.
Furaha offered another perspective: “The challenge for women is a lack of confidence, they have a very low level of knowledge about markets.”
The group collectively identified the following specific areas of interest for including women in the marketing process:
- Establishing a network of village-level agro-dealers to accommodate the mobility restrictions faced by many Tanzanian rural women that prevent them from accessing inputs often located in shops outside of the village
- Capacity building on post-harvest handling to address the information gap for women in post-harvest handling techniques, including proper storage and packaging.
Eye on the prize
Some sports psychologists would say that mental training and visualization is half the battle in reaching desired performance. Our farmers completed a visioning exercise as part of their training, similar to our much-loved Olympians. The group was asked to reflect on where they are now, but more importantly, to develop a vision of how they see their farming businesses three years down the road (or Pathway, if you will).
A lively discussion broke out as participants huddled around the vision drawings.
A look at the picture today:
As participants reviewed the vision drawings, they shared comments including “Today we have poor access to improved seed varieties for sesame, as well as other inputs. Moreover, information does not supplement inputs that are purchased, and there is a serious problem with misuse of fertilizers and agro-chemicals. Output markets for cassava are a major challenge. The demand for raw cassava is low and processing facilities are not accessible to most villages. Access to both input and output markets is especially challenging for women, because they are less mobile.”
The vision for input and output markets:
When they shared their vision, participants said things including: “We are using best practices in agriculture and producing uniform produce. A market committee advises us on which varieties to produce. The market committee will play a major role in coordinating the group from input procurement, to production, to sales, and planning for the next cycle. We will meet as a village under the guidance of a market committee to discuss market trends, total profit captured by the village from the sales season, and cost-cutting strategies. We will bypass middlemen in the output markets to earn more for our work and improve our lives.”
The participants appreciated the “B” (business) part of the FFBS training, especially the participatory training approach. “The marketing session was very real, it will be easy to remember and to have the same discussions with my village,” said Restituta “I am also happy to see that women are participating actively during this training session.”
Rashid Mwakatuma (left), one of two Business Advisors for Pathways Tanzania leading the training, was also pleased with the dialogue that took place. “This session has shown me that the Pathways market linkages approach has been internalized by the group. I was impressed by the strong grasp of the tools that they showed. I know this because they are asking a lot of the right questions. Their insight complimented the content we planned, and I am confident that they will be able to share these tools and lead insightful discussions in their communities.”
The week of training also featured a session dedicated exclusively to gender issues, where participants practiced existing tools, and reflected on how they can best communicate the lessons to their respective communities. The eventful week of brainstorms, visions, challenges and opportunities, ended on a realistic, action-oriented note. After soaking in the full picture of the Pathways Program, the elements of Pathways came together in a three- month implementation calendar developed jointly by farmers and the CARE Tanzania team.
Contributor and photo credit: Ola Mirzoeva, Aga Khan Foundation Canada Fellow