Understanding how gender equity, socioeconomic factors, and reliable digital access to trustworthy agricultural information impact smallholder farmers is key in helping transition rural women, families, and communities towards better food security, health, and economic development through sustainable soy production.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, women farmers are vulnerable to inequalities in access to land and other critical resources, education and training, and power over decision-making that impacts their agricultural productivity. It is important to measure agricultural empowerment and agency among rural farmers in an effort to identify gender-related obstacles and constraints that impact soybean productivity. Women’s empowerment becomes critical for soybean success because soybean as a crop is new to farmers, requires inputs, and is commercial in nature. Therefore, having equal access as men to critical market and technical information becomes essential to achieving high yields and profitability.
In many parts of rural Ghana – as in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa – smallholder women farmers are expected to thresh both their own fields and their husbands’ fields, which is a tremendous physical and time burden for women as mechanized threshing is rarely available.
Through support of the Soybean Innovation Lab and the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss (ADMI), a project was established to evaluate the benefits that women smallholder farmers encounter as members of thresher micro enterprises in Ghana’s Upper West Region.
reported no longer needing cash to pay for threshing services
reported better prices for their crops
reported an increase in cash on-hand and access to credit
“The thresher has brought relief to women. For the first time in my life, I finished my farm before my husband’s, and we will no longer manually thresh again. See my palm this year!”
“The men in our community have seen our importance, and they can’t believe we have a thresher to ourselves. When they want to use our thresher, they come, and we negotiate in a meeting.”
gender impact team
The Soybean Innovation Lab conducts longitudinal and multilevel assessments to define the socioeconomic drivers for soybean adoption and sustainability among smallholder farmers. SIL has found that in order to transition to soybean and still be profitable, smallholder farmers need to be part of a larger network that can offer support, guidance, and inputs. This larger network that can be anchored by seed companies, nucleus farmers, or cooperatives, can provide soybean farmers with access to the necessary inputs and knowledge to achieve higher yields and be profitable.
SIL investigated the viability of soybean production for smallholder farmers in Ghana, especially women. The data originated with a donor organization that wanted to bring soybean production to hundreds of women farmers.
The findings deemed soybean a 'long jump' technology that requires significant shifts in production and marketing practices and a greater dependence on credit in order to become a successful commercial crop. Smallholder farmers need to be part of a larger system, or network, that can provide guidance and support.
The Soybean Innovation Lab's Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial program provides a 3-part incentive system for breeders, seed companies, and farmers that will drive soybean development across the value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Economic impact team
The ICT Connectivity program conducts quantitative field research to identify major ICT connectivity and utilization challenges that National Agricultural Research System (NARS) institutions face throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Using the ICT Health Check-up tool, SIL researchers can identify major ICT problems at NARS institutions and then develop recommendations for the most cost-effective ways to solve them.
It's an exciting time for ICT in Africa, however most of the progress has been focused on mobile connectivity. Additional attention should also be paid to extending high-speed, all-fiber connectivity to NARS institutions so that research results coming out of those research centers can be rapidly accessed and utilized by the public.