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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Increasing opportunities for women farmers

Women play an important role in food production and in achieving greater food security. However, few women have access to land tenure, extension services, finance, education, market, and control of family funds.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), providing female farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million.
Lucy Karimi preparing to take her tomatoes to the market

In Meru County, Sokopepe through its Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS) is helping women farmers pull down the barriers that they face. 

The innovation is helping women farmers move from subsistence to commercial farming. It is also helping women make right farming decisions for increased production and productivity.
FARMIS is helping women to track their agribusinesses as they perform other household duties. Three women based in Kariene Ward in Imenti Central shared their views on how Sokopepe is helping them reach their potential in farming.
Mrs. Peninah Kinanu said that Sokopepe has enabled her to venture into horticulture farming. She decided to cultivate tomatoes and cabbages in her one-acre piece of land. She said that it is now easier to know whether she is making a profit or loss at the end of each season.
 “Sokopepe has built my confidence as a farmer. I can I now take care of my family from the proceeds that I receive from the farm,” said Mrs. Kinanu.
On her part, Agnes Mwaki almost gave up on farming before a Sokopepe Production Information Agent (PIA) convinced her that FARMIS would help her track all her agribusiness enterprises, schedule different farm events and track all her expenses. She then started cultivating onions, kales, and beetroot.
She said that a PIA visits her farm once a week to check the progress of her crops as well as assist her fill the farm book. She said that when women farmers flourish, families and communities do too.
“I now know how much I am investing in each enterprise and projected income from each crop. I also carry out market survey in order to determine crop prices before planting,” said Mwaki.
On her part, Lucy Karimi said that embracing record keeping through FARMIS enabled her to determine profitable crops and enterprises that were “eating” into her profits.
Last season she planted tomatoes of which she has already harvested 1,000 kgs.  She is selling the tomatoes to her neighbours and other traders.
Sokopepe PIAs training farmers on FARMIS
She said that the extension service provided by PIAs has enabled her to learn about pests and disease control. She is now able to control white flies and aphids in her one-acre farm leading to increased quality yields.
According to a World Bank report titled Levelling the field: improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa, a key hindrance to agricultural development and broader growth is a wide and pervasive gender gap in agricultural productivity. The report argues that tackling the barriers that hold back the productivity of female farmers could both enhance gender equality and usher in broader economic growth.
Sokopepe’s Agribusiness Manager Ms. Hildah Nkirote noted that closing the gender gap in agriculture is important in increasing production and enhancing food security.
She said Sokopepe has increased women participation in crops selection, adoption of agricultural innovations and good management practices, as families are increasingly using the record keeping data to know which crops are more profitable.
She said that Sokopepe is working with more than 5,000 women farmers in Meru County through trainings in record keeping, best agricultural practices, market information and linkages, conservation agriculture as well as promotion cultivation of high value crops among women.
“We are now building partnerships with agro-suppliers, agro financiers, extension service providers, and farmers groups to increase opportunities for women farmers,” said Ms. Nkirote.
Ensuring that women have equal access to productive resources is not only increasing agricultural productivity but has also ensured that more women have better control of their economic destinies. 
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