Women and Men and Agriculture

As with everything else, gender roles are very rigid in agriculture. They are not the same globally: in some countries, taking care of livestock is a man’s job; in some it’s a woman’s. In one place, a certain crop is cultivated by predominately women; in another place it’s grown by men. Sometimes, women add value to products through cheesemaking, preservation of crops or fish, brewing beer, etc, and take them to the markets, in other countries this is done by men.Sometimes, these roles vary even between regions within a country. Women and men around the world participate almost equally in agricultural but they do not always have equal access to inputs, resources, services, and knowledge. Which of course prevents them from making the most out of their livelihoods and makes the sector use scarce resources such as water and land in a suboptimal manner. Plus countries are not growing and poverty is not decreasing as fast as they could. Last week, I participated as a discussant in this webinar on gender in agricultural risk management, where we talked about some of these issues and how to reach both men and women to better manage agricultural risks.

Women Malawi

Two impressive female farmers in Malawi that are part of a cooperative. They are responsible for the irrigation pump behind them, which completely changed the business for the cooperative as they now can grow seeds and high-value horticulture. The two women asked me to take the photo of them after showing me the pumping mechanism, so I take the liberty of posting the photo here.

Two Weeks in Rwanda, The Land of a Thousand Hills

I’m back after a two-week work trip in Rwanda. As always, I’ve been there for work in the agricultural sector, and I met with farmers, agro-processors public agricultural institutions, and other actors in the agricultural sector. I spent most of the two weeks in the capital Kigali, but I also went to Nyanza and Huye in the southwest of Rwanda, and to Gicumbi in the north. I met rice producers, a tea cooperative, an award winning coffee farmer, a potato seeds producer, visited a cassava processing factory, and much, much more. It was immensely interesting and, as always, I learned a lot!

The landscape is amazing and Rwanda rightly deserves the nickname the Land of a Thousand Hills. But this together with high population density in rural areas has meant soil erosion and Rwanda has struggled with landslides and soil losses, especially during rainy seasons. In order to revert this trend, intense work has been carried out to terrace the slopes and I’ve never seen anything like it anywhere. One of the photos below shows how the entire landscape had been transformed into terraces to save the soils on the hills.

Rwanda is also very interesting for an agricultural development practitioner like me: Rwanda’s agricultural policy is very much rooted in the in broadly accepted theorem that for agricultural economies, poverty reduction and economic development is largely driven by growth in the agricultural sector. Significant focus is, thus, on increasing agricultural productivity and value added along the agricultural supply chains. To still ensure a diverse diet in rural areas (an objective that not rarely is compromised under ambitious agricultural growth programs), nutritional aspects are incorporated in agricultural policy. It will be interesting to see what these policies yield over the next decade, both in the fields and for the country as a whole.

So I really enjoyed my two weeks in Rwanda! The people that I met and worked with were very nice and shared so many interesting insights to Rwanda’s multifaceted history. We stayed at Hotel Des Mille Collines, which incidentally is the hotel depicted in the movie Hotel Rwanda. (It can be noted that my colleague told me that the story and its main characters are less black and white than in the Hollywood version, but most stories are.) Since I was there for work and only did just that, I didn’t have a chance to see the gorillas this time, but fortunately, it’s not my last visit to this spectacular country.

Rwanda Land of a Thousand Hills

Rwanda students

Cassava Rwanda

Rwanda kids

Terrace landscape Rwanda

Terrace landscape Rwanda

Huye Rwanda

Monkey at hotel

Tea cooperative plantation Rwanda

Rwanda tea testing


Apologies for the quality of some of the photos, I took them through the window of a moving car… From the top: Rwanda – Land of a Thousand Hills // Students on their way from school // Cassava drying on the roadside // Curious kids // Amazing terraces // Huye // Sneaky monkey steeling breakfast from the guests at our hotel in Huye // Tea cooperative plantation in a valley // Tea processor testing every batch // Hotel Des Mille Collines.