Farmers in Rwanda use the mobile platform “Buy from Women” to connect to the agricultural supply chain via text messages. Photo: UN Women.
Empowerment through innovation
Amid fields of maize in rural Rwanda, women cluster in a circle checking their cell phones. At their fingertips lies information that will determine the success of their crops—and their livelihoods. They consider weather and market updates to make crucial decisions, like when to plant and how much fertilizer to use.
The women are tapping into a digital, mobile-enabled “Buy from Women” platform debuted with UN Women’s support for two cooperatives of nearly 700 farmers. It is part of a global flagship programme on climate-resilient agriculture. By linking women to broader markets and improving the quality of production, use of the platform has led to large advance contracts for crops, including with reputable firms such as the Rwanda Grains and Cereals Corporation. Women farmers, who mostly never had access to opportunities like these before, are finding a sustainable exit from poverty.
The “Buy from Women” platform is one of a number of innovations UN Women launched to reach rural and other marginalized women in Africa. In Nigeria’s crisis-torn northern region, a partnership with MasterCard aims to provide a half million women with ID cards that are equipped to make electronic payments. The cards allow women to use banking services and access credit, a financial lifeline in an area where conflict has steadily eroded the economy and resulted in rampant violations of women’s rights.
Women from across Eastern and Southern Africa flock to Sharefairs hosted by UN Women in Nairobi. The events bring women business owners and innovators together to swap solutions that could be scaled up across different countries. After South African Tebogo Mashego, the founder of a metal fabricating company, attended the event in 2015, she introduced automation and new management practices to her business. In less than a year, she saw a 40 per-cent rise in production. A highlight of the 2016 Sharefair was the Young Innovators in Agriculture Award. Among the winners were a social enterprise that transforms agricultural waste into soil conditioner to boost productivity and a mobile app that improves access to finance and markets for free-range chicken farmers.