Empowerment of women farmers is an urgent task in Sub-Saharan Africa, where women represent 50% of the agricultural work force and dedicate most of their time to food production.
In the BIO4Africa project, initial investigations of farmer needs and contexts found that a lack of competitive salaries and social isolation are primary barriers faced by women in their daily business activities.
The burden of work on the farm and in the household means women have few opportunities to seek other sources of income. That leaves women smallholder farmers particularly vulnerable when their crops and livestock are impacted by climate change.
To address this, the BIO4Africa pilot trials are testing bio-based solutions that can improve the socio-economic position of women and their families and help them grow out of poverty.
At KRC Uganda, head of food security and agrobusiness Medius Bihuniwra sees the installation of the BIO4Africa green biorefinery as a chance for women to earn an extra income and gain influence in value chains that are often male dominated.
“I think it answers some of the issues that women grapple with,” she says. “Women can be involved in the production of pasture grasses and legumes for the biorefinery. It gives them leverage.”
In addition to crop production, women play an important role in the zero-grazing dairy sector, which produces around 60% of Ugandan milk. Here, the biorefined press cake is an efficient cattle feed that pushes up milk yield.
“Lots of organisations have been supporting women in zero grazing. The biorefinery provides another opportunity for them to get more involved in dairy processing, for example by making cow ghee and yoghurt,” Medius explains.
The BIO4Africa sites in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal have a similar focus on engaging women farmers. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, eight women cooperative groups are providing cassava peel and coconut fibres for trials with biocomposite production.
Small enterprises managed or owned by women are also the main focus of the BIO4Africa business development programme.
Watch the video above where Medius tells more about how the green biorefinery is benefiting women farmers in Uganda.