Building productive capacities of women are critical for development
Gender-equality focused aid remains concentrated in the social sectors of education and health with alarmingly low levels of aid targeted towards economic sectors. The Executive Director of the International Trade Centre Arancha González made this remark at the First Annual Illycafé Symposium for Women in the World of Coffee held in Trieste, Italy, on 27 March 2014. She pointed out that donor allocation of two per cent of aid to the economic and productive sectors targeted at gender equality is grossly insufficient for development. Ms González said the economic empowerment of women is a driver for development, thus a key part of economic development is in helping to foster women’s entrepreneurship.
‘Women must be an integral part of eliminating poverty as they constitute the majority of the poor,’ she said. ‘Their economic empowerment must be an integral part of our agenda not only because it generates employment but because women reinvest up to 90 per cent of their earnings in the family, linking trade to development. Inequalities in terms of access to and control over resources, including those needed to build productive capacities are what we need to tackle to realise gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.’
The Executive Director said ITC’s work is aimed at improving the environment for women by working with partners to bring about change from level of the farm to the industry and at the national level. Citing the case of Uganda, she said ITC worked with the government in the development of their National Export Strategy from a gender perspective. This included work in the coffee sector where impediments to women’s success along the value chain were examined. Ms González said the focus is to advocate for equal access for women and men to services, including finance, and improvements in property law to promote land ownership.
For women to be empowered, Ms González said the entire family, including men, must understand and support the process. This means working with men and women to build trust and joint decision-making. Helping women to improve their access to funds can go a long way in improving output and income. She noted that coffee planting and harvesting is seasonal which leads to swings in family income. This means many farmers face food insecurity in the off-season. Some suffer from low coffee yields and low prices due to poor quality, while some are hampered by the lack of land. Ms González said improving yield and quality through basic good agricultural practices for coffee, pruning and post-harvest can improve incomes by 20 per cent or more. She stated that access to food is not just about growing food, but also about having adequate income to buy food. Diversification of sources of income can reduce farmers’ exposure to risk and make them better able to survive market movements. This, Ms González said, should include food production for consumption as a buffer against volatility. Providing technical assistance to farmers including improved practices for storage and the decrease in food waste can also help promote good agricultural practices.
The Executive Director said ITC works with the International Women’s Coffee Alliance to provide leadership training and negotiating skills, but noted the need for broader partnerships among industry, government, international organizations and non-governmental organizations to improve the lives of farmers.