To commemorate the International Women’s Month, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) hosted a hybrid VALUE4HER advocacy and networking event on Tuesday, 16th of March, 2021 at the Fraser Suites and Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria. The discussions at the event centered around facilitating growth and development of women owned agribusiness enterprises. The event brought women-owned agribusinesses together, supporting the expansion of women’s presence in the market, improving market access, acquiring capital, knowledge, skills, networking and global advocacy to help mitigate the key barriers for women empowerment in agriculture.
The VALUE4HER platform provides important business and capacity development for its members. The launch had women experts in various segment of the agricultural value chain to discuss key issues and solutions for agribusinesses, sharing their experiences on accessing finance, gender inclusiveness, climate change, and nutrition, etc.
Further discussions centered on long-term constraints women owned agribusinesses face, offering crucial solutions to help build a resilient business and advocating for the creation and utilization of existing opportunities among other trending impediments in the agricultural sector in Africa.
Dr. Kehinde Makinde, Nigeria Country Manager for AGRA and facilitator of the webinar, introduced the order of events which included two-panel sessions with series of experts to discuss what the VALUE4HER can bring to women owned agribusinesses. He also emphasized the significance of this initiative, saying, “there are lots of potentials that have not been harnessed, so we need to give more recognition to women”
The welcome address was delivered by Vanessa Adams, Vice President Strategic Partnership, AGRA. She discussed Nigeria’s capacities to tackle its problems through determination. She indicated AGRA’s focus on women and strategy two years ago, looking at gaps within each country across Africa. Speaking directly from the direct constraints, she listed three key issues around agribusiness, having looked at different tools in every survey and discussion in the testing market with unreliable pricing structure, effect of COVID-19 pandemic – opportunities, financing capital, as well as the lack of confidence among women entrepreneurs and decision making in their networks. She mentioned that AGRA will launch new opportunities this year –an online training targeted to increase financing literacy and building the capacity of women entrepreneurs. In her words; “it will provide a direct network for at least a thousand women entrepreneurs across Africa.” Highlighting another opportunity to be launched by AGRA, Vanessa stressed the devastating impact of COVID-19 on accessing funds for climate and food system support.
The welcome address was followed by a presentation by Sabdiyo Dido –Head of Gender and Inclusiveness and VALUE4HER Manager at AGRA who talked on how to strengthen women and businesses, highlighting the following questions; “ VALUE4HER is looking for how to strengthen women businesses, how can we assist more women to get into entrepreneurship and bring women to benefit more from agriculture? She resolved that “Nigeria is really the place where we can get these businesses to scale.” On VALUE4HER initiatives, she mentioned, “agriculture is not born out of necessity, opportunity, we would like to transform them into something profitable for her.” Sabdiyo said that the VALUE4HER connect is an initiative centered on advocacy, calling on other women companies and partners to bring the resources required to many women entrepreneurs by joining the program that is speaking for women needs.
Mrs. Sugra Mahmood, Deputy Director of Irrigation and Agricultural Development, Federal Department of Agriculture, FMARD and Head of Gender at the Federal Department of Agriculture of the Ministry in her keynote address, stated the need to easily access technology everywhere, a solution to empower SME’s in remote regions in the north.
There were two panels sessions, experts discussed the session theme “Addressing Key Barriers for Women Empowerment in Agriculture,” highlighted issues are, panelists experiences on access to market, panelists challenges at business startup, men dominated environment, restriction on rural farmers which was further expanded by Stella Thomas, CEO Tecni Seeds Nigeria Limited. The second panel discussion was on “Expanding the market place for women through strong networks and the necessary support they need as women from the relevant organizations. The discussion focused on women empowerment, key successes made by the panelists and areas of improvement for grassroots women entrepreneurs and Hassana Garba, Head Women in Agriculture, NAMDA, Niger State spoke on the needs for government intervention in sensitizing the grassroots women through effective communication and the influence of community-based leaders.