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Empowering Rural Women Farmers to Accelerate Food Security 

November 9, 2022

Women smallholder farmers represent more than 40% of the agricultural workforce in developing countries. These women work to ensure food security for their communities and, in so doing, help to support climate resilience and bolster local economies. And yet, prevailing patriarchal cultures mean they are often disadvantaged compared to men, in terms of access to education, economic resources and land, which reduces their ability to produce food and generate an income, hindering their families’ food security, health and livelihoods.

rural women farmer infographic

At LDC, we acknowledge and celebrate the vital role rural women play in agricultural production, and seek to provide practical support to this underprivileged group in collaboration with like-minded partners.

That is why we are working closely with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation on various projects to empower women smallholder farmers across the globe through sustainable solutions and practices.

Spotlight on India

In 2020, LDC embarked on a two-year project with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation and the Centre for microFinance to enhance the food security and cash incomes of women smallholder farmers in the district of Tonk, which lies in the semi-arid eastern plains of Rajasthan, India.

This project supports the creation of women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) of 10 to 20 women per group, where they receive training in finance literacy to facilitate access to credit for group members. The groups also strive to improve the agricultural knowledge and production skills of women smallholders, with a focus on low-cost, preferably organic farming methods, water harvesting and crop diversification.

rural woman farmer

“Last year, we were trained on how to keep proper records – how to record savings, loans and repayment transactions. Now, our group is running smoothly, and our improved knowledge also helped to get us a loan from the bank.”

Anita Sen
Smallholder farmer
Palai village of Uniara, Tonk, Rajasthan, India

Project participants have so far seen an average of a 41% improvement in their income, as improved food production practices have helped these women to generate a food surplus, allowing them to cover their household’s food requirements for an additional three to four months.

“I used to buy vegetables from the market, but now I grow what I need for food and sell any excess produce. Previously, I was dependent on family members for money. Now, I have a regular income – and money in my hand.”

Shanti Devi
Smallholder farmer
Jhundwa village of Uniara, Tonk, Rajasthan, India

rural woman farmer

Given its success to date, the program has been extended until 2024, aiming to support 6,000 women farmers from 100 villages in Rajasthan by then, while training 450 farmer groups in financial literacy, allowing them to apply for government funding to grow and make their businesses more sustainable.

Key Impacts to Date

rural woman farmer project facts

Spotlight on Ethiopia

In Africa, LDC agronomists have been delivering GAPs training to smallholder coffee farmers in Southern Ethiopia since 2021, distributing coffee seedlings to project beneficiaries to help regenerate coffee production systems.

As a direct result, 82% of farmers who adopted GAPs now have higher coffee yields, while soil quality has also improved, with increased moisture levels, improved density and a higher composition of nitrogen and phosphorus.

In collaboration with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation, PUR Projet and EmpowHer, the project also promotes gender equality through a strategy to address gender bias at the cooperative level, in a farming community context where leadership roles are mostly held by men, while women farmers are expected to also manage housework. The strategy also aims to increase access to micro-finance for cooperatives, while simultaneously championing greater participation of female members.

rural woman farmer

“Following the training, I bridged the skill gaps I needed to develop a stable business activity. I also developed my leadership skills by working on my self-confidence and creativity.”

Gebinesh Gabure
Leader of the goat farming group
Sidamo region, Ethiopia

As part of the GAPs training, modules promoting gender equality have been shared with some 3,000 smallholders, around 700 of whom are women. To reach a broader group of participants, 41 kebeles (the smallest administrative unit of Ethiopia, similar to a neighborhood) organized awareness sessions delivered by gender champions. The project also supports women’s economic empowerment by helping local women entrepreneurs (seven to date) to grow their businesses.

“Before this program, I didn’t have the knowledge or capacity to develop my own business and generate income for my family. Today, I have a vision and developed the self-confidence and skills needed to achieve it. I can present my beekeeping products to attract new customers.”

Birhnesh Dumo
Owner of a beekeeping business
Sidamo region, Ethiopia

rural woman farmer

Key Impacts to Date

Spotlight on Côte d’Ivoire

In Western Africa, LDC is supporting women rice farmers in Côte d’Ivoire through a training project with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation and FairMatch Support.

So far, 2,077 women were trained in GAPs, 52% of the total expected number of beneficiaries, and approximately 1,500 women farmers have benefited from receiving equipment and guidance in communal plot management.

rural woman farmer

“We have been trained in all the technical aspects of rice production, from field selection to harvesting and sales. Thanks to this, we will be able to increase our productivity and improve our living conditions.”

Coulibaly Natogoman
Woman farmer group lead
Bagoue region, Boundiali, Côte d’Ivoire

An important aspect of this project is the training of ‘lead women farmers’ in financial management, including profitability analysis and production planning. 140 lead farmers have so far received this additional guidance, and will in turn share their newfound knowledge with local peers.

“Some women have emerged as leaders in the community. Their status as a woman is no longer a barrier to making decisions and conducting activities for profit. This is a positive repercussion of the training received in financial management.”

Kone Wanipoho
President of a women’s cooperative
Bagoue region, Boundiali, Côte d’Ivoire

rural woman farmer

Like all of LDC’s sustainability efforts, the project in Côte d’Ivoire works to create fairer, healthier and more secure futures in a practical way – in this case, by raising awareness about the importance of health and education among more than 1,000 women, and by supplying school canteens with produce grown by 1,500 participating farmers, for the benefit of 2,750 schoolchildren. 

Key Impacts to Date

As the world marked the International Day of Rural Women this October, we are proud to share the success stories of the many women we have worked with and supported, as part of LDC’s projects with the Louis Dreyfus Foundation to empower rural women across three continents.

More on our support to rural communities.


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