Burkinabe Women Build Resilience in Agriculture
By Djimasbe Ngaradoum
As the son of a farmer, I have been inspired by the work of women and youth farmers and entrepreneurs as they strive to provide for their families the same opportunities that my parents could for me. In Burkina Faso where I work, women play a variety of roles in agriculture markets. They are the farmers who supply markets with crops and animals, market actors who process and sell agricultural goods, and consumers who purchase food for their families.
In many West African communities, I have seen how women’s efforts contribute to high levels of agricultural production and receive external investment. Yet, too often, their communities also have high levels of poverty and malnutrition.
Barriers to women and youth entrepreneurship and decision-making in household management and finances contribute greatly to this problem, especially as regions of Burkina Faso near the borders with Mali and Niger face a double crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing insecurity and displacement.
The activity I work on, USAID Yidgiri, partners with communities to tackle these challenges with a focus on nutrition through agricultural practices and training opportunities and by supporting and equipping women and youth with skills in production, business management, financial literacy, and networking.
To improve production of agricultural crops, we established practical solutions like demonstration plots for cowpeas, a legume which is high in nutrients, and provide farmers with information about improved technologies that can increase their yield. In the 2020–2021 agricultural season, 83 percent of the farmers who attended the demonstrations were women — women who reinvest this knowledge into their practices and profitably and sustainability feed their families and communities.
We also collaborate with local communities to support dynamic women and youth-led agribusinesses through our Youth and Women Entrepreneurship and Rural Innovation (YWERI) program. YWERI equips participants with business best practices and access to finance, providing the resources, income, and knowledge for women and youth to feed themselves and their families nutritious foods and to go on to be healthy farmers and entrepreneurs. The program aims to catalyze commercial growth for businesses owned by women and youth in the Burkinabe agriculture sector. This will lead to a new generation of farmers and build more resilient communities.
With backing from USAID Yidgiri, women can also better access finance and acquire literacy skills through the activity’s “tontine” groups. These groups serve as savings and lending associations for local communities, strengthening women’s confidence, access, and resources to participate in markets, negotiate, and apply for loans.
By investing in women and youth, the Yidgiri team is working with Burkinabe communities to foster women’s decision-making power so they can manage savings and build resilient households, improve incomes so they can feed their families with nutrient rich foods, and strengthen markets so they can access finance and do business with confidence. While the path to increasing resilience is tough, with Burkinabe women leading the way, practical steps towards that goal will ensure a sustainable and stronger socio-economical future for Burkina Faso!
- The author is the chief of party for the USAID Yidgiri Activity implemented by CNFA in Burkina Faso.