Financing still major barrier for women, youth in livestock

DAR ES SALAAM: SUSTAINABLE livestock production that engages women and youth in profitable enterprises is among crucial ingredients for the transformation of food systems in Africa and driver for addressing food and nutrition insecurity, youth unemployment, gender inequality and climate change.

However, lack of access to financing and information continues to impede the growth of the sector and the transformation of livelihoods for women and youth.

These were among key takeaways that transpired during the herding change ‘Sustainable Livestock Innovation by Women and Youth’ side-event session at the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 taking place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The session was co-organised by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and among other partners showcased successful women-led entrepreneurs in East Africa for inspiration and came out with recommendations for policies needed to support women and youth entrepreneurs in the livestock sector to transform food systems in Africa.

“Lack of access to knowledge on dairy production due to the breakdown in extension systems in many African countries and finances, is a major bottleneck for women livestock entrepreneurs,” said Ms Margaret Munene, an entrepreneur.

She identified some of the innovations being taken by Palm House Diaries to address these challenges including providing private veterinary services and working with youth as extension agents to train women.

According to her, such was the way to go and has the additional benefit of creating much-needed jobs for youth.

For her part, the Chief Executive Officer of AKM Glitters Co Ltd, Ms Elizabeth Swai, who grew from rearing 250 chickens in 2004 to becoming the only certified producer of kuroiler breed in Tanzania with a capacity to produce three million chicks in a year, identified the need for incubation to build capacity of young people in livestock production.

She revealed that AKM Glitters has a model that incubates youth groups to learn all about poultry production as well as finances.

Ms Swai called for deliberate efforts to help women access to finance so as to scale up livestock production and women-led livestock enterprises to support livestock, women, and youth play their role in the transformation of food systems.

On the other hand, the Co-founder of DigiCow Africa, Ms Jemimah Wanjiku, said that the DigiCow application facilitates access to crucial information for farmers that is packaged in ways that it is easily understood and in user-friendly formats.

Such was important as the digital divide – the gap between those who have access to digital tools and those who do not – was growing further marginalising poor youth and women.

She added: “Training is key and customising information and knowledge for farmers to access and understand. Unfortunately, in many African countries, there is a breakdown of extension services and the private sector has been forced to fill the gap.”

A youth champion and role model engaged in poultry production from Singinda, Tanzania, Ms Pauline Kilindi noted that female farmers are doing extremely well in poultry production and are not taking up roles thought to be only for men.

“It’s important to change the mind-set of the society so they can support women engaged in livestock production without following cultural practices that marginalise women,” Ms Pauline said.

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