Four UN Agencies Join Hands To Put Smiles On The Face Of Rural Women In Rwanda

WFP, FAO, IFAD and UN Women designed an innovative and comprehensive effort to support economic empowerment of rural women for sustainable livelihoods and improved food security.

Gasarabwayi, Rwanda -- It is said that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. This is certainly true for the rural women of Rwanda, who take on many roles including care-taker, breadwinner, nurturer and educator.

Alphonsine Nyirandayambaje, a 36-year-old mother of three, is one of thousands of rural women in Rwanda who are working hard to improve the lives of their families, in spite of many challenges, and doing it all with a smile. She lives in Gasarabwayi village in Eastern Province, on a small piece of land where she grows maize, beans and bananas for her family to eat as well as to sell at the market. Alphonsine is in the field by six o’clock every morning, and she works there for several hours before fetching firewood and water and returning home to prepare lunch for the children.

In Rwanda, as in other low-income countries, women are the backbone of the rural economy and are responsible for 60 percent to 80 percent of food production. However, women face many challenges that can preclude them from independently owning or managing land and productive assets.

In many households, men control the production and marketing of crops as well as household finances, even though much of the work is done by the women. Rural women often lack basic literacy skills, making it difficult for them to benefit from training activities that could improve their agricultural production and increase their incomes.

Since 2010, WFP has been implementing the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative and has accelerated behavior change towards economic empowerment by training small-holder farmers on post-harvest handling skills and linking them to markets and financial institutions. The rationale behind P4P is to provide smallholders with the opportunity to improve their agricultural production, and an incentive to do so, as they benefit from an assured market in WFP or other buyers to whom they can sell their surplus crops, dependent upon quality and price.

Alphonsine giving water to her cow.WFP trains the farmers on post-harvest handling methods and leadership skills, and links the smallholder farmers to financial institutions.

It is in this context that WFP, FAO, IFAD and UN Women designed an innovative and comprehensive UN effort to support economic empowerment of Rwanda’s rural women through joint actions. This initiative aims to build on the strengths and mandates of each agency to generate broader and more lasting improvements in the livelihoods and rights of rural women. The goals include raising incomes and improving food security and nutrition.

The joint programme will enhance rural women’s leadership and participation in rural institutions and in shaping laws, policies and programmes to create a better environment for the economic empowerment of rural women.

Women in rural areas work very hard and can feel enormous pressure from the demands they face in the fields and at home.

“We are expected to answer every challenge at home, we do the farming and look after the family,” said Alphonsine.

The four UN agencies hope their joint approach will bring hope to many rural women by helping them find sustainable ways to earn more income, improve their lives and boost their livelihoods.