Gender, agriculture and ICTs: What you can do with 7000 euros

In Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo, women’s cassava root crops were being destroyed by pests but thanks to some internet training, they increased their healthy crop production and agricultural knowledge. In the Dominican Republic, women from an agro-processing cooperative learned to better manage their production thanks to an ICT training -many of them were 50 years old or more, which is “old” and “good for nothing” by rural Dominican standards. Find out more about what GenARDIS projects were able to achieve with small grants of about 7000 euros.

Internet research brings solutions to crop diseases
IFDAP, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

In the DRC’s border region of Uvira, women’s cassava root crops were being destroyed by pests. In order to help the women of this community increase their healthy crop production and agricultural knowledge, IFDAP trained them on internet research so they could learn about the diseases affecting their crops. They also provided the women with mobile phones in order for them to contact potential buyers and trained 48 women and eighteen men from nine different women’s groups in the area on the use of technology. A weekly radio show (“The Voice of the Woman Farmer”) was also created, on which topics related to gender and agriculture were addressed.

As a result of their new knowledge and access to technology, the rural women of Uvira were able to increase their crop production and family income. Increased family income has meant better tools to work with, education for their children and better nutrition for themselves and their families. While the new economic power of women was met with resistance and jealousy from some men, other men have embraced the changes and now also participate in running the household. Through this initiative, the women of Uvira have gained more respect from their families and communities.

ICTs help Dominican women farmers better run their cooperatives
Fundación Taigüey, Dominican Republic

La Ciénaga is a small village in the Dominican Republic where 75% of the inhabitants live under the poverty line. With the support of Fundación Taigüey, women got together and set up an agro-processing cooperative. GenARDIS funded the ICT component of this initiative, which aimed to help them manage their cooperative.

Sixteen women from the cooperative board received training on tools relevant for running the cooperative. Many were 50 years old, which means “old” and “good for nothing” by Dominican rural standards. Most of them had not finished primary school, so Taigüey staff decided to go to the basics: they taught them maths so they could understand the logic of tools such as spreadsheets.

Thanks to the ICT component most of them are not afraid of computers any more. The cooperative’s leaders travelled to Uruguay to share experiences with a similar cooperative there. Before taking the plane for the first time they were able to take part in a teleconference and meet their Uruguayan colleagues. This prior exchange made things much easier when they met face to face.

The main learning from this experience is that ICTs do not bring development on their own. They need to be integrated into broader and more inclusive initiatives, and then help make them faster and more effective.

This article was extracted from GenARDIS 2002-2010: Small grants that made big changes for women in agriculture, which collects the work of GenARDIS grantees through the various rounds of small grant winners, and evaluates the impact the funds have had on the lives of rural men and women.

Photo: A women’s cooperative in La Ciénaga, the Dominican Republic, harvests fruits to make eco-friendly preserves. They have access to an ICT centre where they are able to learn tools to manage their business.
Photo: Fundación Taigüey