Agriculture is the backbone of the Kenyan economy, making up a massive 45% of national GDP. Smallholder farmers are key to food security within the region, with women in particular making between 42%-65% of the agricultural labour force. However, the pandemic brought new, and compounded existing challenges within the region as climate, COVID and other social factors led to the regions first recession in 25 years. Digital Agriculture Africa directly responds to these challenges by providing a farm-to-fork digital solution for smallholder farmers in Kenya. Open-source platforms help to create access to resources, information, financing and potential markets, whereby 1.3 million farmers in the region have been trained and over 110,000 transactions have been made.
We caught up with our Partner Ms. Chacha, Program Manager at FSPN Africa-Kenya Office, to not only see how the project is faring, but the unique role it is playing for women in the country. Kenya is still largely governed by customary laws prohibiting female ownership of land. However, laws are not the only challenge, as cultural views still reinforce limited roles and rights for women and girls. Within Kenyan rural society, women contribute mostly to food security at the household and community levels, where men dominate the commercialized agriculture sector. Due to lack of education and literacy opportunities, lack of financing access, extra burden of care labor, and the growing digital gender divide, female-headed households tend to have lower agricultural yields.
Ms. Chacha, herself, is fundamentally aware of these struggles- a woman who works her own farm and moved into agritech out of a desire to curb illness and disease through combatting malnutrition. She explains how FSPN, in collaboration with GIZ’s #SmartDevelopmentFund, is prioritizing youth and women and helping to create greater food security. Digital Agriculture Africa (DAA) has surpassed its goals (200% reception rate) thanks to the focus on self-supporting smallholder farming groups. The project facilitates digital literacy and access to markets with a focus on creating sustainable links to ensure the project will outlast the implementation phase.
Whilst prioritizing women, DAA remains sensitive to gender dynamics by involving men and demonstrating how women’s participation in smallholder farming groups are beneficial for the whole family. One profound example of the impact the project creates is in being able to reach those who live so rural as to feel forgotten. Ms. Chacha recalls one female farmer who could not remember the last time she received education. These micro-level impacts help to paint in the colors and give life to the impressive numbers Digital Agriculture Africa has managed to achieve.