S/CA Hub and Innovators Tackle Women Agribusinesses’ Challenges at the Africa Agriculture Science Week

The WE4F Southern and Central Africa Hub convened a session on tackling enabling environment challenges faced by women agribusinesses during the Africa Agriculture Science Week. The session included speakers from Lanforce Energy, Solidaridad, and Nature’s Nectar.

The 8th edition of African Agribusiness and Science Week (AASW8) was held at the International Convention Centre in Durban from June 5th to the 8th, 2023. Current and former Ministers of Agriculture from African countries, experts in the agricultural field, investors, and prominent business people all attended the Science Week. AASW8 brought participants together for one goal: to strengthen links between agribusiness and science to create competitiveness in agro-industries and innovation for the continent’s future. The Science Week also reinforces partnerships with the private sector, investors, and policymakers.

Bhekiwe Fakudze (WE4F S/CA EEU Coordinator) facilitating the enabling environment session.

WE4F innovators Judith Marera from Lanforce Energy (left) and Katherine Milling from Nature’s Nectar (right) as well as Precious Greehly from Solidaridad (center) served as panelists for WE4F’s session.

To help highlight the enabling environment barriers faced by women-led agribusinesses, the WE4F S/CA Enabling Environment Unit convened the side session, “Tackling the Enabling Environment Challenges Faced by Women Agribusinesses,” which was attended by approximately 20 participants.

The session consisted of a panel discussion that featured Solidaridad’s Head of Gender and Youth (South Africa),  Lanforce Energy’s CEO and Founder(Zimbabwe), and Nature’s Nectar CEO and Founder. The panelists shared the challenges they encounter in the agricultural value chain and identified opportunities for women-run agribusinesses to thrive, disrupt the market, and benefit other women in the value chain. Judith Marera reiterated the need for governments to be deliberate in addressing the women agribusinesses’ challenges and creating opportunities for them to thrive and contribute to resilient food systems. The key message that emanated from the session was that the solutions provided by governments and development partners for women agribusinesses should be tailor-made and that social and cultural dynamics should be considered when designing such solutions. The participants also agreed that women should play a crucial role in the agriculture value chain, mainly in mechanization in the agriculture sector, and advocate for gender-sensitive machinery.

Katherine Milling, CEO and Founder of Nature’s Nectar shared, “I gained insights from participating in the Science week by learning from different innovators and other participants. I interacted with a South African retailer and we discussed the avenues one has to follow to distribute products through retail in South Africa”.

In conclusion, panelists agreed that it is not enough only to empower women agribusinesses. A holistic approach should be adopted so there can be a transformation of society, particularly in power relations between men and women. This can be done by creating awareness on gender convergence in housework and adoption of equal partnership for better coordination of family duties in a way that reduces stress and conflict and ensuring there is work-family balance.

Dr. Inga Jacobs, WE4F S/CA EEU Advisor, giving an overview of the WE4F project.