Agricultural and textile production, carried out primarily by women, is the foundation of most developing country economies. In many developing economies as much as 80% of women are employed full or part time as small-scale producers in the agricultural sector and account for the majority of food security production for both their families and the communities where they live. Despite carrying such a heavy burden of the productive work, women are often marginalized to the informal sector of developing and even established economies where they find themselves ineligible for social services and social protections afforded the formal sector. The result is a deep cycle of poverty and social inequality experienced by women producers that keeps them isolated from mainstream capital markets and government social programs.
At GFI we see a deep and sustained investment in women producers as one of the single most effective strategies to break the cycle of poverty in the developing world. Empowering women farmers and textile workers requires a multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder engagement process aimed at creating opportunities for improved input, access to credit, removal of institutional and supply chain barriers, access high-value markets and policy reform targeted at enabling women to sustain real economic growth and improve livelihoods.
GFI brings a core set of tools to our programs aimed at improving livelihoods for woman producers and we follow a process that targets barriers and creates opportunity through the following steps:
1) Building Local Capacity
The implementation of GFI programs is based on local input and agreement on design of the project. Once a coalition and consensus is built we then tailor each activity according to our strength or engage key GFI partner to implement strategies outside of our expertise. Activities both target specific obstacles identified during the design phase as well as work cross-functionally on interrelated strategies. GFI uses a multi-stakeholder engagement to bring together a core group of local actors committed to advancing project goals and activities. The group will include actors such as producer and related business representatives, government officials and community leaders.
2) Technical Assistance
In collaboration with GFI partners and appropriate local organizations we develop a program for providing technical assistance on issues such as enhancing production, meeting industry quality and packaging requirements and the development of sales strategies. Private sector partners offer expertise and client networks to help construct more effective and profitable supply chains with a focus on the use of technical assistance overall to enhance production, quality, sales strategies, and supply chain management.
Increasing the productivity of land and farming practices or textile production is one of the largest potential areas for gain in small producer communities. This can be done through higher quality inputs, improved land management and better use of technology. This may include the sustainable use of appropriate technologies such as fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides for agriculture or fabric, machinery and design for textiles. Local and international best practices are drawn upon and analyzed for their appropriateness for each situation.
To be competitive, producer groups must address issues of uniformity and quality guidelines demanded by global markets. This requires more uniform inputs of quality seeds or fabrics. Associated activities can include setting up community seed banks, agricultural information centers or design trainings for textile workers.
Smallholder textile and agricultural producers do not have the capacity to develop marketing campaigns to promote their products. GFI program participants benefit from improved market research and professional partnerships to create sales strategies and materials to ensure the competitiveness of the products in key markets.
Supply Chain Management
Limited storage capacity and difficult product transport remain two principle constraints in the supply chain for poor producers. Few small-holder producers have the physical space or knowledge of the necessary conditions for proper long-term preservation of such things as produce or other product inventory; in the case of agricultural products this can mean that they are forced to immediately sell their commodities during seasonal harvest periods when supplies are highest and prices are low. Improved storage capacity allows farmers to take advantage of lower supply periods when their products can earn a higher return.
3) Market Analysis
GFI market analysis strategies include a range of activities such as determining market demand and working with local officials to incentivize production of strategic products and promote coordination of rural distribution networks. This is done in parallel with multi-stakeholder activities that are helping producers to understand their role in the supply chain, as well as maximizing their leverage in local and global markets.
4) Policy Evaluation
It is clear that economic development projects do not operate in a policy vacuum. However, there is little to no formal representation of women small producers in policy-making processes. GFI and its Women’s Trade and Finance Council (WTFC) work with local women’s organizations to represent and raise the voice of women producers in national and international policy forums. The WTFC develops clear policy goals and an agenda to achieve them. The Wolfensohn Center for Development and the Brookings Institution, a recognized world leader in policy analysis, work directly with GFI and the WTFC to identify and prioritize the policy challenges being face by small producers. Counter- productive international policies are also examined and reform recommendations are developed and highlighted. Additionally, GFI works with local research organizations to help develop lessons and to build capacity. The overall goal is to improve policies that effect poor women producers throughout the developing world to inform a large educational campaign or support broader recommendations.