In rural Ukraine, women have less access to business training and networking opportunities. MEDA’s Ukrainian Horticulture Business Development Project (UHBDP) held a forum to celebrate International Day of Rural Women in Zaporizhya, Ukraine.
The forum was in partnership with the Ukrainian-Canadian Dairy Business Development Project (UDBDP) and brought together 100 women agribusiness leaders with the aim of networking and building their competitiveness, competence and confidence as entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs also had the opportunity to interact with government authorities and share their concerns about the agribusiness sector.
Women were invited to share their business experiences and concerns in the agribusiness sector, including:
- Resource diversification
- How to plan for growth and succession
- Operations and financial management
- Digital promotion
- Aggregation and,
- State registration for State Financial Programs support.
International speakers Carla Grooney, owner of a livestock farm and feed business in the U.S. and Celine Delhaus, a successful farmer and board member of Agropur Cooperative in Canada, shared their experiences in agribusiness with the group and shared advice and recommendations with participants, adapted to the Ukrainian context.
UHBDP has 44,000 female and male clients. Forty-one percent of clients are women but only 5% registered their businesses with the Ukrainian government.
Ukraine’s former Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy, Olga Trofimtseva, stressed the importance of food safety and quality. She called on producers of fruits and vegetables to register with the government as market operators and to register their production capacity so that their produce is regulated. Tromfimtseva promoted the implementation of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system which ensures the safety of food and helps women farmers not only identify gaps in their own traceability system throughout the food chain, but also increases their visibility to higher value markets.
“Women in business are hard to see because there are not enough of them who are registered. And why should businesses be registered? This is an opportunity to speak with the authorities, attract investments and receive grants. This is why we are focusing a lot of attention on the registration of women’s business. According to our research, it is women from unregistered business who do not see their future in agribusiness. Those who are registered are more optimistic.”
– Oleksandra Harmash, UHBDP Cross-cutting manager
Voices of Women in Business in Ukraine
At the event, UHBDP conducted a survey to better understand the participants’ businesses as well as how their businesses affect their personal lives and vice versa. Survey respondents were from both UHBDP and UDBDP. Of 100 attendees, 68 gave responses.
Most respondents (70%) were from Dniper, Zaporizhia and Kherson, but a number came from Odesa, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk. The majority (84%) lived in villages, were between the ages of 41 and 60 (60%) and were married (73%). Most were involved in production of milk (44%), grains (32%) vegetables (25%) and berries (17%).
Agency & Rights
Of the 15 women who answered questions regarding violence in their homes and communities, 5 (33%) noted that they have experienced psychological or physical abuse in their lives, while 10 (67%) noted that they are close to women who have been subjected to violence and abuse. To address this issue, UHBDP is developing a gender equality resource webpage to provide clients with contacts for services for survivors of violence as well as resources and information on women’s rights and related legislation.
Input into decision-making varies according to the type of decision, as represented in table 1. Most commonly, decisions are made as a family, while some women make their own decisions regarding their business, especially around where to sell products, and some do not participate at all in decision-making. It is likely that women are more likely to make decisions on where to sell as women are often responsible for selling produce in the market. This question was answered by 59 people, and their responses can be seen in the table below:
Table 1 Women’s participation in decision-making regarding business operations
|I do not participate||Sometimes I participate||Family Decides||My responsibility||Family Invests||No data (question not answered)|
|Technology/means of production/care of plants||6%||2%||60%||15%||N/A||17%|
|Where to sell||6%||2%||54%||22%||N/A||16%|
|How much of profits to invest||6%||0%||62%||9%||4%||19%|
|To engage in external funds||7%||0%||48%||12%||15%||18%|
Participants were also asked about common daily struggles; the most frequently reported were lack of time for business engagement due to domestic duties (33%) and heating in the winter (33). Interestingly, the number of women who struggle with balancing business and domestic responsibilities seems low, as women report having primary responsibility for cooking, washing, housekeeping and ironing. One reason for this could be ideas about appropriate roles for women, which include responsibility for the household. Other daily struggles mentioned included water supply and bad roads (19%), followed by lack of consistent access to electricity and potable water (10%).
Access & Use
More than half (57%) of the women entrepreneurs who responded to the survey work in agribusiness full-time, while 30% also have additional full-time jobs. 73% operated micro or small agribusinesses – 41% said they’d like to expand their businesses, while 24% said they are satisfied with their business’s current size. Most find business information on the internet (69%) and from international projects (57%). Only 26% received market information via extension services.
The level of mechanization in their businesses vary. The most common response (38.8%) was that the level of mechanization/automation of business operations was at 30% or less.
Table 2 Level of Mechanization in Small Businesses
|Level of mechanization||Only manual labor||30% and less||31-50%||51-80%||81-100%||Question not filled in|
|% of women||10.5%||38.8%||16.4%||14.9%||4.5%||14.9%|
16.4% of respondents reported 31-50% level of mechanization followed by 14.9% at 51-80% mechanization (see table 2) With regard to climate change, the most commonly noted impacts were high summer temperatures (51%), dryness (22%), and health concerns (9%).
Over 35% of respondents reported needing a family budget of up to 25 000 UAH (953 USD) per month. Of those, 54% were able to make this amount. Most women (60%) reported not using formal financial services. For those that did take loans, 27% requested amounts less than 200,000 UAH (7,624 USD). The majority of respondents noted that they were aware of state agriculture support programs but did not use them. 27% did not use them because they felt they were for larger business. Some (33%) have received grants from international technical assistance projects for agricultural business projects in the past.
Client Satisfaction and Recommendations for Future Forums
Three months after the forum, MEDA’s UHBDP gender team conducted a “follow-up” survey of UHBDP client attendees to gauge their responses and glean information for future programming. What was most promising was that 100% of respondents noted that they had learned valuable information, would recommend this event to a friend, and would like to come the following year. 96%noted that the content was relevant to their business and 84% said that they accomplished the objectives of the forum. While percentages of satisfaction are high, some ideas for the future similar events would be to be sure that the pace is appropriate (84% responded that it was). Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the sustainability of such events, is that 60% indicated that they would pay for a similar event in the future.
UHBDP operates in the Southern Oblasts of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Mykolayiv and Odessa and seeks to benefit 44,000 small and medium horticulture farmers and small enterprises to extend and expand individual firm capability and the horticulture value chain through capacity development, linkages to markets, and improved market relationships between market actors. As a result of MEDA’s UHBDP project so far, 3,112 women have acquired knowledge and skills in innovative technologies, 1,581 women have improved their business and management skills through trainings and farm study experiences. UHBDP also provides Gender Equality and Environmental Grant Programs of which 55% of grant recipients are women business owners.