A Window of Opportunity for Women in Agribusiness

AECF’s flagship initiative on gender, the Investing in Women – Agribusiness competition launch has been postponed to the 18th September, 2018 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. This initiative seeks to create a gender inclusive agricultural value chain that addresses rural poverty, food insecurity and gender equality by increasing the proportion of women generating income from agribusiness as well as the number and quality of jobs for women working in agricultural value chains.

The program will serve to generate benefits for businesses and improve the livelihoods of women in agribusiness either through increasing business revenue for women entrepreneurs, producers and job creation for women across the agriculture value chain. Attention will be paid not only to increasing the livelihoods of the owners, workers and suppliers in a particular business, but to support businesses that shape contemporary practices to create a more inclusive value chain.

The program will be piloted in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire & Burkina Faso with an initial budget of USD 5.9 million, from United Kingdom that will fund businesses in specific agriculture value chains, and as funding becomes available, AECF plans to increase the fund size to USD 50 million to cover the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.

The approach is based on a challenge fund model, with a few modifications to address structural barriers that limit women’s access to finance. Small to medium sized private companies that are active across the agriculture value chains in Sub-Sahara Africa will be selected through a rolling competition, and applicants will undergo a gender audit to assess them for gender diversity and impact in their businesses. The gender audit will ensure that the investees selected by the program will incorporate business models that target significant numbers of smallholder women farmers; operate in sectors that demonstrate the potential to grow or reach higher value markets and therefore offer better economic opportunities to women. The business models must also facilitate women to take advantage of economic opportunities by upgrading their current roles or taking on new roles as well as generate innovations in practices and processes that will create a more inclusive value chain.

Although the funding will be available to all sizes of enterprises, applicants are required to generate a persuasive argument, must be coherent about the overall business model and the value chain.

Investment ideas will be invited from companies working in all aspects of the agricultural value chain, including input supply, production, post-harvest and storage to marketing and distribution with an emphasis on leveraging the role of women as either smallholder producers or employees in sectors and environments where they have been traditionally under represented. Examples of the areas that could be funded include but are not limited to:

  • Improving access to inputs through women centric training, training and equipping of female extension officers, gender sensitive demonstration plots, development of inputs for crops grown by women, establishing machinery rings for women members, training women in machinery use, establishing financial mechanisms to enable women to buy or rent inputs and equipment, developing information services and mobile banking services for women farmers, supporting women to open agro-dealerships, develop and promote voucher services that specifically support women;
  • Improving production by improving access to education and training at both farmer and leadership levels, providing women with credit and other financial services including insurance, providing access to land, developing time or labour-saving technologies for smallholder women farmers;
  • Strengthening post-harvest processing and storage through training in technology and best practice, access to quality storage equipment and technology, access to finance to invest in storage facilities;
  • Improving access to markets by developing transport solutions for women or products produced by women; generating access to infrastructure in downstream processing and distribution or by providing information on markets at technologically appropriate levels. Initiatives could also include effective leadership training, buying from women or women’s groups; development of women centric payment mechanisms and using information technology to bring women into markets or resolve other issues of market access.

For inquiries on the funding program or the launch please contact Tinotenda Pasi-Chirinda on tpasi@aecfafrica.org or John Kavilu on jkavilu@aecfafrica.org