Women key roles as farmers and caregivers: What do we know?

By Katia Agostinho, FSDMoç Market Analyst

In the following blog, Katia Agostinho, looks back at International Women’s Day 2016 and provides us with a call to reflect on a deep-seated issue that confronts women smallholder farmers in Mozambique, a significant proportion of the labour force in the country.

Women key roles as farmers and caregivers: What do we know?

“When you invest in women and girls, you invest in everyone” Melinda Gates posted on Facebook.



Did you know that agriculture in Mozambique employs 62% of the women labour force which represents the vast majority (almost 90%) of those that work in agriculture?

So, how are women actually positioned within the major agricultural value chains? Understanding this issue will help financial service providers (FSPs) to understand what products they are seeking and policy makers to improve the regulatory frameworks for agricultural financing and investment.

Despite the massive participation of women in agricultural production, they occupy the lower echelons in value chains, and normally do not market the production having mainly access to informal markets. In many cases they are subject to discrimination by customary practices and bear a heavy workload (From Accelerating the Inclusion of Women in Agricultural Value Chains (Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa, FSDMoç and Positive Planet, 2015.

For example, the Accelerating the Inclusion of Women in Agricultural Value Chains study in Mozambique analysed the cassava and cashew value chains in the South-Central province of Inhambane, and concluded that women usually produce less per hectare than men, have unequal access and return from inputs; and have less access to contract labour to assist in production.

A crucial insight on money management from the study is that generally women expressed the desire to be more independent from men and separate out what is considered to be their business from the family budget. There is an opportunity here to build their money management capability through well designed financial literacy assistance. Better money management may assist women to create more sustainable businesses that will improve agricultural production both locally and nationally given their significant contribution.

At the same time, there is an opportunity for FSPs to become better acquainted with women and develop tailored products for smallholder women (albeit a diverse segment of the population) who have proven internationally to be loyal and trusted customers both as individuals as well as MSMEs. An IFC study, “A Research Report on Opportunities, Challenges, and the Way Forward” drawn from analysis in India in 2014, notes that women borrowers have stronger repayment track records and gender disaggregated data from banks indicates that non-performing loans are 30 to 50 percent lower in women-owned businesses. According to Finscope Consumer Mozambique 2014, women are less financially included (combining both informal and formal access) at 31.3%, compared with men at 35.9%.

A comparison across two countries in our region allows us to notice differences that have a bearing on women’s performance as individuals and businesses.

For example, in Malawi, using the same exercise done in the soybean and groundnut value chains, it is found that men and women play an equal role in the physical production of the crops and joint decisions are often made, but usually men dominate financial, production and marketing decision making. Women tend to be favoured as employees due to the nature of the tasks required, for example hand grading and sorting. In terms of access to finance, there is low use of formal financial products by women, such as a bank account or a loan from a formal financial institution; they use more savings groups.

However, Zambia offers a more similar scenario to Mozambique. Women described carrying out the majority of agricultural work across sectors with less time to rest than men. Men are typically responsible for land preparation (tillage), spraying and sales of production for large plots and may help with harvest. According to FinScope Consumer Zambia 2015, women smallholder farmers exhibit the lowest financial inclusion in Zambia.

The point here is that women play a vital role in the agricultural economy and yet yield fewer benefits. The question then is how do policy makers put in place measures to ensure that better outcomes happen for women engaged in the agriculture and other parts of the economy in Mozambique. Cross cutting strategy and multi stakeholder initiatives can ensure that these women are well placed and demonstrate their real production potential to improve both their commercial proposition and food security for their families.

FSDMoç, through and in partnership with private sector players, invests on innovative initiatives with the potential to drive growth of an inclusive financial sector by also serving women adequately. In 2014, FSDMoç undertook a specific market component system analysis on access to financial services by women, which informed its gender strategy; the analysis lead to the identification of four sub-segments of women, being: women in rural areas (represents 80% of total population and 61% within the segment), women in the informal sector in the urban area, women owned MSMEs and women formally employed. FSDMoç also did a comprehensive analysis of the FinScope Consumer Survey 2014 and some key findings highlighted that overall women are still behind men in terms of access to finance, although the progresses on their inclusion can be considered positive.

Ladies and gentlemen, in September 2015 world leaders will adopt in New York the Sustainable Development Goals in which they pledge to leave no one behind. It is in this framework that financial inclusion has to be translated into providing a financial identity to every youth, every woman in rural and urban settings to have a financial identity which allows them to take a stake in the formal economy in the next fifteen years of the Sustainable Development Goals framework. It will require a massive scaling up of our efforts. Business as usual is not an option. I leave you today with this challenge.” Graça Machel at the 2015 AFI Global Policy Forum, September 2015, Maputo, Mozambique