Southern Africa Trust launches report on women traders and farmers in SADC
The experiences and challenges of women in the SADC region: The case of trade and agriculture sectors
Women play a key role in the trade and agriculture in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) yet they face enormous challenges which hinder their full potential as farmers and traders, says the Southern Africa Trust.
The Trust commissioned a study aimed at assessing the extent of gender mainstreaming in the implementation of SADC trade and agricultural policies. It found limited gender integration and mainstreaming in policies.
“Women contribute significantly through their involvement in the production and sale of tradeable goods and as managers and owners of firms involved in trade. It is therefore important for women to be included in the development and implementation of SADC policies,” said The Trust’s Mobilization and Engagement Manager Christabel Phiri.
In relation to the agricultural sector, challenges facing women farmers include women having limited access to credit or finance; agricultural inputs such as seeds; and to transport to and from markets as well as a lack of agricultural skills and infrastructure, in particular, storage facilities.
Similarly, in the trade sector, women have been facing challenges with regards to security in the border posts, limited sanitation and limited hygiene facilities.
The study was conducted through primary and secondary data collection as well as key informants and focused group discussions, with a specific focus on Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The study also makes an analysis of the status of women involved in agriculture and trade and their level of knowledge of existing sector policies.
“We are excited to be launching the research report on International Women’s Day. It takes us one step further towards better understanding the experiences of women who make a significant contribution to trade and agricultural sectors in the region,” said Phiri.
Some of the findings are that more than 60% of households in the trade sector are headed by single, widowed and divorced women. The education levels of women surveyed differed among the three countries. In all three countries covered, almost all the women and key stakeholders reported that the majority of women in agriculture were involved in small scale farming due to limited financial resources, knowledge and use of farming technologies as well as complex trade procedures and requirements. The level of knowledge of both agricultural and trade policies among women was very low and a cause for concern.
“The Trust recommends coherence between agriculture and trade on the one hand and with other relevant policies supporting agriculture and trade. Wider use of Information communication technologies by women traders and farmers should be encouraged to close the information gap,” said Phiri.
The report also points to the need to create new and alternative avenues for borrowing in order to support women in the trade and agricultural sectors as well as simplified customs procedures and documentation and a reduced burden of domestic taxes and other fees and charges at borders of SADC Member States.
The trade and agricultural sectors play a key role in socio-economic development of the SADC region. Across the world, evidence suggests that trade is an engine of growth. Agriculture on the other hand remains central to poverty reduction in the region. It provides a livelihood, including subsistence, employment and income particularly for the majority of the people living in rural areas. According to the pdf SADC Statistical Year Book 2015 (2.87 MB) , both trade and agriculture contributed approximately 20 percent of the regions’ Gross Domestic Product in that same year.
Women play a key role in trade and agriculture in SADC, yet they face enormous challenges that hinder their full potential as farmers and traders. In trade, women make a major contribution through their involvement in the production and sale of tradeable goods and as managers and owners of firms involved in trade. They feature significantly in informal trade, selling both agricultural commodities that they produce, as well as other merchandise which they buy from other countries to trade mainly in their home countries.
It is estimated that the value of trade conducted by women in the SADC region is approximately US$20 billion annually. It is also estimated that 70 percent of Informal Cross Border Traders (ICBTs) in the region are women, and that 30-40 percent of intra-SADC trade comes from informal cross border trade. According to the pdf SADC Food Nutrition Security Strategy (1.22 MB) , women also play a critical role in ensuring food and nutrition security. The Strategy indicates that in SADC, women contribute more than 60 percent to total food production, provide the largest labour force in the agricultural sector and in some Member States, perform more than 70 percent of agriculture work.
This study focuses on Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe and makes an analysis of the status of women involved in agriculture and trade and their level of knowledge of esixting sector policies. The main conclusion of the study is that women’s economic empowerment can have an enormous contribution to the development process and poverty eradication efforts of the region.
» Download the report on the Southern Africa Trust website.