AGRA Round Table and Hand Over Ceremony for “VALUE4HERConnect” tagged- “Unveiling Africa’s First Women in Agribusiness Digital Marketplace”

A Round Table and Hand-Over Webinar Ceremony was organized and hosted by the Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) on the 22nd of October 2020 to coincide with the administrative handover of VALUE4HERConnect platform. The event was aimed to communicate AGRA’s blueprint in ensuring that the initiative becomes sorted by women in agriculture to enhance partnership in addressing gender inequality challenges in the agricultural space. The event had two sessions; the first was a round table discussion themed “Business Recovery and Resilience in the Era of Covid-19” where various representatives of partner organizations and actors in the private sector discussed the challenges & opportunities the pandemic has created and how the platform could be pivotal in harnessing the opportunities. The speakers in this session were Sabdiyo Dido, Head of Gender & Inclusiveness, AGRA, the key note speaker; Beatrice Gakuba, Executive Director, AWAN Afrika; Irene Ochem, Founder & CEO, AWIEF and Eva Ndamono Shitaatala, CEO Zadeva Fisheries. The speakers for the second session were Ndihi Tandon, Socio Economic Advisor, UN Women; Vicki Wilde, Head of Gender in Agriculture, BMGF; Jim Barnhart, Assistant Administrator, USAID Bureau for Resilience & Food Security and Ibrahim Khadar, CTA Director. Vanessa Adams, Vice President Strategic Partnerships, AGRA was the moderator of both sessions.

VALUE4HERConnect is a digital intelligence platform and a core initiative of the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) to enhance the performance of women’s agribusiness by ensuring visibility, collaboration and support for women in agribusiness in different aspects of value chains. Vanessa Adams during her welcome address stated the various challenges women agri-preneurs face and indulged attendees to also pay attention to the opportunities in the space.   In her words…”We are thinking about women entrepreneurs as the linkage markets, producers and consumers. Women are striving to make their communities a better place. It’s been proven that there are gaps in profitability, etc… Today, we don’t want to talk about challenges but also opportunities.” According to Sabdiyo Dido, the platform is an opportunity for strategic collaborations to address various challenges in the sector. She further explained what the platform offers to female agripreneurs, the community, investors and buyers of agricultural products. She noted, “This platform gives a woman the visibility they need. It enables them access the three key capitals required to be profitable in business: business, social and knowledge capitals. Indeed it is something that brings all of us together to create a landscape on a digital space. I ask you to please go to the link to register and see what resources are there”.

Eva Ndamono Shitaatala emphasized the role of digitalization as a tool in enhancing women inclusiveness in agriculture and a solution to rural challenges. She stated that the platform grants women the opportunity to be participants in the market and harness other opportunities available in the value chain through collaboration. She said, “… with a digital platform like this, women have the opportunity to do trade and meet with other women to find solutions to your problems. We cannot solve rural challenges without digitalizing women in the rural areas”. Beatrice Gakuba stated that Covid has brought a lot of challenges yet much more opportunities. She emphasized the need to include trainings in digitalization packages in order to ensure that women with low literacy level are properly taught the techniques involved in digital marketing. This she said will be achieved through strategic partnerships. She explained that capacity building is important in ensuring that women harness the opportunities available in local and international markets. In her words…” I think this is a good platform, Covid has changed the way of thinking and we need to reset to be better. We are going to restart on a good basis. How are we going to prepare the women in financial literacy, access to market and trade? This is where we have to continue working together to address these things. Irene Ochem stated that the platform would serve be instrumental in creating pathways for more resilient food systems. She noted, …”It couldn’t have gone better as a solution. The platform is something needed and Covid has made it evident for us that technology is key”.

During the second segment of the discussion, Ndihi Tandon spoke about the vulnerability of women in the agricultural sector and how they can serve as the backbone for a more resilient system. She stated that the pandemic has highlighted the gaps in the food system, which can be filled with integration among stakeholders in the value chains. She noted, …”We recognize that women are vulnerable to   risk but on the flip side of the coin they are vital to building resilience. Women are not only underpinning care and stewardship; they are feeding us. There has to be integrations between groups and women. We do have to have the platform ready but we also need the ICT providers jumping in to make it work”. Vicki Wilde clearly explained the indirect effect of the pandemic on the society; its socio-economic and cultural impacts on the society. She further explained that a digital platform like VALUE4HERConnect will enhance proper monitoring of business activities for female agripreneurs. According to her, this will enable women have financial power and control over their businesses. She said…“This pandemic is not only biological; it is socially exploiting, the systemic racism, sexism, hunger, poverty, etc. It is threatening lives and livelihoods especially that of women. We need platforms like VALUE4HER to strengthen women in business.  Digital platforms that offer online trainings and mobile financial services are needed urgently. Soft skill training is very important in developing a more entrepreneurial mindset in women”.

Jim Barnhart explained that addressing issues of women inequality would serve as a means to improve livelihoods and eradicate poverty. The pandemic has created opportunities to achieve women inclusiveness in agriculture through digitalization. He stated “…it is mindboggling to me that we are still struggling to address gender inequalities all around the world and it is the easiest thing to do to lift the lives of people all around the world. Let’s agree that as difficult as this Covid has been, it has shown a lot of opportunities”. Ibrahim Khadar highlighted some factors that will enhance the productivity of the platform in the future which are capacity building, innovation, partnership, sustainability and maintenance. He further expressed his belief in the opportunities the platform can create and his expectations on what it can accomplish with AGRA’s inputs.  “…I have painted the picture and it is going to be a good child.  We would remain very active in the process…

The pandemic has highlighted the gaps in the agricultural sector; it has conveyed the essential contributors in the system and the challenges they face. Digitalization has proven to be a major solution to enhance integration to close these gaps by creating platforms for market visibility and collaborations to build resilient food systems. The VALUE4HERConnect platform serves as an ideal forum to fill these gaps and ensure women inclusiveness in agribusiness, which would be harnessed by female actors in the system. Thus, Wandieville uses this medium to encourage existing/potential female stakeholders to seize the opportunity this platform offers to scale up their businesses and make their contributions in building more resilient food systems in Africa.