Inclusive value-chain development: finding a place for women and youth

***This blog was originally posted on ypard.net***

The recent FAO and ITC event “Regional workshop on the WTO (World Trade Organization) instruments in the interest of Agribusiness and on export promotion” invited a discussion on building inclusive value chains in light of small-holder producers. Participants at roundtable were FAO and ITC (International Trade Center) Staff, international consults and Ministry representatives from Post-soviet countries and Latin America, several NGOs from the development sector.

YPARD Ukraine was part of the panel, and as the YPARD Ukraine country representative, I put together several examples of inclusive value chains.

Examples come from my role, as an M&E (monitoring and marketing) consultant at MEDA’s Ukrainian Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP). UHBDP aims to build equal access to trade for small-holder fruits and vegetable producers, especially for women and youth.

Project Brief:

Ukrainian Horticulture Business Development Project aims to increase revenues of small and medium YPARD Ukraine at FAO-ITC workshop-panel discussion, Odessa, Ukrainehorticultural producers, especially women, on the South of Ukraine. Increasing revenues means improving production technologies and trade opportunities through market linkages and value chains.

Value Chains:

Value chains refer to the sequence of interlinked agents and markets that transforms inputs and services into products with attributes that consumers are prepared to purchase. Millions of low-income people, a large proportion of whom are women, participate in agricultural value chains as producers, traders, processors, and retailers. Many millions more, including most of the developing world’s poor, participate in agricultural value chains as laborers or consumers.

What did we discuss at the panel on inclusive value chains?

kristina_with_business_wheel
Kristina shows off an agricultural tool developed for the UHBDP project

In Ukraine, in terms of fresh fruits and vegetable production, we see both women and men as equally represent and engaged in the field. Equally means, that 45% of fruits and vegetable producers are women, and 55% are men. They take care of production management: seeds, soil, irrigation, plant protection practices and harvesting. When it comes to trade and decision making, women and youth are frequently underrepresented. Our project data shows that 92% of transactions and financial decisions are operated by men. Women and youth abilities to participate in the trade process may depend on access to information, skill set and social expectations.

Women and youth interests, requirements and constraints need to be carefully considered when inclusive value chains are designed and evaluated. Therefore, we collect and analyze the data to build our services and informational campaigns in a more inclusive manner.

In summary, value chains have a place for women and youth, when:

  1. We analyze carefully who is included and who is excluded and why.
  2. We use numbers and facts not idealistic messages when working with youth. 
  3. We use ICT tools, especially video and visual content to convey useful information.

Lesson 1: Make a good analysis of who is included and who is excluded when it comes to information access.

Inclusiveness and gender equality are only possible when there is equal access to information on a certain topic or market situation. Let’s look at the example of state financial support programs in Ukraine.

Ukraine has five state support programs for agricultural producers with a total budget, 215 million USD in 2018. Support includes loan compensation, purchase of seedlings, machinery and equipment, business development of livestock farms and milk cooperatives. According to our internal research, farmers, who used state support programs and successfully received financial reimbursement were to large extent men, older than 40 years old. When asked, how did they find out about the application process and could submit their documents? men were answering that they are friends with government officials and found out the information during informal meetings. We took this piece of information as a call to action and have developed simple and concise infographics aimed for women and youth, who want to apply for state support programs but do not have friends among governmental officials.

ukraine_business_wheel1
Business wheel and calculator developed for the UHBDP Project

Similarly, when women were asked how they do their financial record keeping and conclude whether the season was profitable or not? the answer was – “In our head”, there is no certain system or tool that can be both easy to use and be informative at the same time.

That’s how UHBDP cross-cutting manager Alexandra came up with the idea to developed a business calculator and business wheel to support the financial side of the business and family budget for women.

During the workshop, the concept of the wheel evoke curiosity in many participants and traveled to Ethiopia, Uganda and Armenia.

Lesson 2: Youth are convinced by numbers and facts not by idealistic messages

youth_at_UHBDP_farm
Youth show their enthusiasm for agriculture as part of MEDA’s UHBDP Project

Like everywhere around the globe, Ukrainian youth leaves their villages and moves to the cities in hope to find a secure job in the office blocks. The key driver for that decision is income. When asked, “How much money do you want to earn for comfortable living”, – Youth replies the desired income lies between 500 to 1000 USD. Many young professionals say, that they would not leave their village if they knew they can earn this money at home. At this point, we come back to the Lesson 1 mentioned above – access to information. Access to information on what crop to produce, how big should the land area be and the production volume, so that the final market is ready to pay the revenue, that brings the income of 1000 USD. In order to support such decisions, we have developed a database that helps calculate an unknown variable based on known information. For example, recent graduate Anna, tell us that her grandparents have 2 ha of land that she may inherit. The initial investment depending on crop differs, as garlic would require 2000 USD per hectare and onion about 400 USD, but also the market price for the crops and revenues differ significantly. When Anna has such a tool and can on her own plan her production and future gaining’s, when she knows how to prepare the application for state support program and ask for a loan she needs at the beginning of the season, it makes the whole difference. The decisions based on numbers and facts empower youth to stay and try out.

For those young professionals, who would like to work in agriculture but find starting their own business too risky without experience, UHBDP offers an internship program. We link young professionals with local businesses. Farmers search for a fresh blood for agronomy, marketing and trade, and they get it, while the young professional is provided with the first job to apply the knowledge in practice he or she has obtained at the University.

Lesson 3: Webinars helped us build inclusiveness

Our focus groups with rural women have shown, that 83% of women have a computer at home, but only 3% use it for their horticultural business. UHBDP launched a series of webinars that included topics from production technologies, to marketing and sales, and it helped to spread the knowledge to small-holders, 38 webinars received in total over 30000 views and hundreds of comments.

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By:
  • Kristina Kuznetsova is the Monitoring & Evaluation and Marketing manager for MEDA's Ukrainian Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP). In her role she manages three directions of M&E: quantitative data capture, qualitative research and focus groups, and marketing activities of the project including webpage and social network management, as well as visual content. Kristina's passion is in bringing innovation and modern approaches to the field and farmers. She does it with the help of data, on-line platforms and IT-solutions for decision making. Prior to joining MEDA, Kristina was a managing director at Datalab Agro Ukraine - a young company that develops and implements farm management software solutions. Kristina has a Masters Degree in Horticulture from the University of Bologna in Italy and Technical University of Munich, Germany, Agricultural Faculty. She is the Ukraine country representative for Young Professionals for Agricultural Development. In her free time she is engaged with voluntary projects, writes blogs about agriculture in different countries and locations and enjoys sailing and learning languages - especially German and Italian.