Female farmers a click away from data under UN, Airtel deal

Kenyan women farmers are among thousands in East and Horn of Africa who will benefit from information sharing tools launched by Airtel and UN, in a growing trend that is recognizing the pivotal role of women in agriculture and the need to arm them with timely  information.

Women form the largest percentage of those actively engaged in agriculture but are still grappling with information access which is ultimately affecting food production.
In Kenya for example,women provide 80 percent of farm labor and manage 40 percent of smallholder farms in Kenya.

Yet they own only 1 per cent of agricultural land, receive only 10 per cent of credit and only access about 1 percent of information that is necessary for their crop production. In Horn of Africa women produce 90 per cent of all food, yet do not share equally in the economic benefits.

The Farmer's Information System will help its users find real-time weather and farming policy updates, in order to support the development of women entrepreneurs. The UN Women body will identify the farmers to be covered, while Airtel will deliver the appropriate mobile solutions during the two-year partnership. Airtel will also co-finance projects promoting the empowerment of women and girls.

According to the agreement, UN Women will identify the farmers to be covered under this initiative, whilst airtel will package and deliver the appropriate mobile solutions to support their livelihoods and enhance their efficiency.

Commenting on the partnership, Andre Beyers, the Chief Marketing Officer of airtel Africa said: “The empowerment of women is essential to economic development, especially in rural and agricultural economies. We are pleased to partner with UN Women and contribute to their agenda of gender equality and empowerment of women by leveraging the possibilities mobile telephony has to offer.”

Two in every Kenyan farmers are women who are still struggling with access to seeds and better farming practices thanks to a shortage of agricultural extension officers who offered such services according to a study by Handfarm International. 

Lack of seeds is attributed to lack of information about their existence since thousands of these seeds lay in research institutions. “Then there is the case of the change in climate that is now forcing farmers to adopt new methods of farming and pest control. While the reality of the vagaries of weather hasnt really hit the farmers, it is really happening and such timely intervention like the Airtel and UN one come in handy in providing this,”said Dr. Victoria Mwikali an agricultural economist from Tegemeo Institute of Moi University.

Written by Aloyse Muinde for African Laughter