Despite the important role of women in the agricultural sector, their access to advisory services is limited. Fert supports Malagasy farmers’ organizations to enable them to better take women into account in their advisory services and to make households aware of their responsibilities.

Limited access to farm advisory services

According to a study commissioned by Fert on the place of women in producers’ organizations in Madagascar, only 25% of women feel they have satisfactory access to agricultural advisory services. This poor performance can be explained by several constraints. Among them, the fact that women must take on domestic activities in parallel with their agricultural activities; they are therefore less available to participate in training or exchange visits. Other constraints include the nature of agricultural activities (women are involved in smaller-scale production), cultural weight, illiteracy and limited access to land.

A willingness to adapt to integrate women

Fert’s experience of several years of agricultural advisory services in sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Madagascar, etc.) shows that it is only when producers and their technicians become aware of women’s constraints, and when there is a political will on the part of elected officials at the level of professional organizations, that services can be adapted.

Aware of this problem, Malagasy producers’ organizations have put in place a series of small practical arrangements to facilitate women’s participation. The main one is to take into account the particular agenda of women: schedules are adapted to allow for a better participation of women.

“I organized the advisory activities from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. with the PO members because women are less available in the morning.”

An agricultural advisor in Madagascar

Services that facilitate the involvement of women

Some services attract more women because they are more suited to their needs: access to land (land registration services and legal advice), local savings and loans via the Groupements Villageois d’Entraide Communautaire (GVEC) or the storage of agricultural products… The Cap Malagasy association, which specializes in agricultural advisory services, has developed with Fert an educational tool, the “Agricultural Monopoly”, which is particularly suited to women. This tool simulates the functioning of a farm over a year in order to learn how to analyze a farm and make the right decisions. It is very interesting for farmers who cannot read or write, since the game is illustrated with drawings and photos, and thus makes it easier to integrate women (who are more often illiterate). In addition, most of the time, the activities are carried out with couples, thus making it possible to sensitize households to the involvement of women in the management of the farm.

“I try to come to the home of the woman who is a member of the FO when her husband is there in order to discuss with him and gradually convince him. He ends up accepting.

An agricultural advisor in Madagascar

Agricultural advice to gain self-confidence and take responsibility

Access to advice allows women to gain confidence and later to take on responsibilities within organizations. But the path to taking on responsibility is not always easy. Husbands may be reluctant to allow their wife to leave for a few days to make exchange visits. However, they change their minds when the household income increases as a result of the new agricultural practices acquired by their wife.

The empowerment of women within FOs is essential to enable them to influence practices and promote their recognition.

“We need support from experienced technicians and leaders to be able to cope. We also need to direct support to women leaders so that we become more professional and have more confidence in ourselves.”

This article is taken from a contribution by the Fert and Fifata teams in Madagascar for the n°80 “Savoirs féminins” of the magazine Grain de Sel of Inter-réseaux Développement Rural. (in french)

Publié le 23 avril 2021.