Sector of activity
Agricultural and Fishery
Type of initiative
Research, Analysis, Assessment
Type of lead actor
1. To assess how Agricultural Entrepreneurship (being part of a farming cooperative, taking part to training programs and improving one’s commercial/agricultural techniques) results in social, political and economic empowerment among women farmers.
2. To compare the empowerment process in farming cooperatives with the empowerment process in Industrial Entrepreneurship (small business owners, petty traders, tailors, etc.) to draw implications for economic development and policy-making.
In-depth interviews have been conducted with 100 study participants (of which: 52 ICENECDEV farmers, 18 farmers from other cooperatives, and 13 entrepreneurs in the industrial sector). The interviews have taken 25 to 40 minutes each, have been administered with the help of trained interpreters, and have consisted of 5 phases: a general introduction of the participant, an excursus on the agricultural and commercial techniques she has learned, and how these techniques have resulted in well-being in economic, social and political terms, respectively. In addition, the primary data collected from the participants has been combined with daily field notes, expert interviews and archival information.
The data collected, amounting to 559 pages [182410 words] (of which:participant interviews – 478 pages[147844 words], and field notes – 81 pages [34566 words]), has been analyzed through the software for qualitative analysis MAXQDA 2018. The analysis has involved a coding procedure in three steps: Open Coding (the annotation of relevant concept as mentioned by the participant), Axial Coding (the aggregation of relevant concepts mentioned by different participants under overarching categories), and Selective Coding (the refinement of codes and categories to better reflect the nature of the data and the insights emerging from new cases). For detailed information on the coding procedure, please refer to Corbin and Strauss’s manual “Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory” (SAGE Publications, 2008).
Impact and Results
1. Women farmers in ICENECDEV are, on average, more economically empowered than women farmers in other farming groups. This can be attributed to the many donations received (wheelbarrow, spray can, clash, etc.), the trainings and the hard work.
2. Economic Empowerment of women farmers results in positive spillovers at the societal level. Empowered women may raise their status within the community, at times allowing them to cover positions within the council and take decisions with the men.
3. Women farmers in ICENECDEV are also more socially empowered than women farmers in other farming groups. This can be attributed to the group features of ICENECDEV beneficiaries (self-organizing communities, composed mostly of women) and some interventions dedicated to women rights (e.g. instructions on how to avoid upsetting the husband).
4. However, Social Empowerment is still rare among ICENECDEV beneficiaries. It is more common among women farmers who have positions of leadership within their ICENECDEV group, live closer to urban areas, happen to be widowed, are married to a non-farmer husband, or boast a high level of education.
5. Unlike Economic Empowerment, Social Empowerment is to some extent at odds with traditional logics. While a woman who works hard, raises her status, and sponsors her closed ones is well-seen within the community, a woman who speaks out, challenges the husband’s authority, or takes men’s tasks is likely to face negative prejudices from her peers.
6. On a policy level, Agricultural Entrepreneurship in Buea results in more Economic Empowerment than Industrial Entrepreneurship. Farmers who join a cooperative can see remarkable improvements in food security and daily working capital after only 3 months. However, business owners face more difficulties in achieving financial sustainability for themselves and their families. This can be attributed to the fertile land in Buea, the little risk involved in agriculture and the overall non-competitive business environment in the agricultural sector.
7. Nevertheless, Agricultural Entrepreneurship results in less Social Empowerment than Industrial Entrepreneurship. While farming requires hard work and limits the opportunities to connect with people or participate in quarter life, commercial activities involve more free time and social interactions. In addition, Industrial Entrepreneurship exposes women to less restrictive logics and more opportunities to speak out and take responsibili
Next steps and how to get involved
Interested stakeholders can share perspective on approaches challenges and lesson learned and challenges in empowering smallholder farmers in Africa