Addressing the skills needs of women smallholders: CSD’s report signals that it’s time for change
By Heidi Agbenyo
On Wednesday 21 January, CSD held the UK launch of its report, Training for Rural Development: Agricultural and Enterprise Training for Women Smallholders, at the Royal Commonwealth Society, London.
The report is the result of a year-long study into how agriculture and enterprise training can improve women smallholders’ livelihoods, and it focuses on what training programmes can do to help women smallholders access appropriate training and then apply that training.
Kathleen Collett, one of the lead researchers and report authors said: "Women now make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in developing countries, but their skills needs are often not met because their challenges are not well understood, and their concerns are not prioritised by policy makers or trainers. With this in mind, we wanted to explore the type of training that can help women smallholders to be more productive and adaptable".
In the presentation of the report, six key themes were highlighted:
- The importance of delivering enterprise skills in conjunction with agricultural training.
- The need to understand the context in which the women are working and their situations.
- The need to engage the local community to understand the barriers that may prevent access to training.
- The value of groups, such as self-help groups, for training.
- The importance of mechanisms for women to influence the technology they are offered.
- Ways of reducing the risks women smallholders face when taking up new processes.
The report’s four recommendations were also outlined. CSD will be seeking to promote these recommendations with development agencies and policy makers, as well as using them to underpin practical skills development projects in this area.
- Projects need to invest in long-term engagement in order to develop the high levels of trust needed to understand women’s challenges and change women’s perceptions of themselves and what they can achieve through training.
- Projects need to use the power of the community by supporting groups which can help women share and retain information from training, and work together to put it into practice. Projects also need to engage with community leaders and with husbands, fathers and brothers to ensure that they see the value of the training and do not stand in way of women acquiring and using new skills.
- Projects need to introduce change in manageable steps. Technical skills need to be developed stepwise, alongside supporting financial and management skills.
- Projects need to work with local government to achieve longer-term changes. Training needs to empower women to articulate their needs and press for relevant services, for example, through developing lobbying skills.
CSD’s presentation was preceded by a contribution from Jonathan Mitchell, Director of Programmes at the Overseas Development Institute. Mr. Mitchell outlined the international context for the research, stressing the importance of smallholder agriculture for poverty reduction throughout the developing world. It was followed by a short video from Concern Worldwide, which described the personal side of the struggle many marginal women farmers experience in the words of six Zambian women farmers.
In the Q&A session that followed, Alba de Souza, the UK National Commission for UNESCO said: “I am really delighted that this report is actually looking at capacity building and ways in which they can help the women. And, more importantly, asking the women what help they need and empowering them to take ownership“. Elizabeth Nichol from the Ghanaian High Commission also expressed her support, and challenged researchers to take the cultural dimension of training seriously.
For more information visit www.skillsdevelopment.org/T4RD
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