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Towards gender equality: Equipping women farmers in South Africa and Malawi with financial literacy skills

November 11, 2020

Keneilwe Nailana

Standard Bank and United Nations (UN) Women are currently providing financial literacy training to thousands of women farmers in African key markets including Malawi and South Africa.

In October 2019, in an Economic Empowerment of Women in Africa through Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) agreement, Standard Bank and UN Women launched a partnership aimed at empowering women through modern farming technologies that increase productivity and income potential while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

UN women is executing the programme under its ‘HeForShe’ campaign as part of championing the advancement of gender equality. Standard Bank is a global champion of ‘HeForShe’. The CSA programme is aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly with regards to the pursuit of gender equality, decent work and economic growth.

Standard Bank has committed US$3 million over a three-year period to end-2021 for the project, which is targeting 50,000 women. “Through this three-year CSA initiative, we aim to contribute to the economic empowerment of women across Malawi through climate smart agriculture and practical business skills,” says Graham Chipande, Head of Relationship Banking at Standard Bank Malawi.

In addition to critical farming skills and tools, the beneficiaries receive training for key technical skills including financial literacy. This is an important component of the project in that it will help to ensure the long-term success of the farmers.

While Covid-19 and social distancing requirements have posed challenges, significant progress has been made since CSA’s launch. In the first half of 2020, 40 business clusters were formed in Malawi to provide basic business management skills such as record keeping, gross margin analysis, price discovery, and the development of business plans, among other skills. The business groups have more than 4,000 smallholder farmer members between them – three-quarters of whom are women.

By the end of 2020, 5,000 women farmers in the country are expected to have received financial literacy training. The beneficiaries farm primarily groundnuts, which are processed into oil, flour and peanut butter. “Through the project’sholistic and comprehensive approach to empowering women farmers, we are helping to improve their functional skills as well as financial skills so they can manage and grow their farming businesses,” Chipande said.

In the South Africa leg of the project, approximately  950 women farmers have received training in business management and digital and financial literacy in the first half of 2020. The UN Women office in the country has continued to work throughout the national lockdown, and Standard Bank has remained fully operational as a designated essential services provider.

In the six months to end-June, agricultural inputs – drought-resistant seeds of various crops, fertilisers and organic manure, farming equipment, and training on climate smart agriculture – were delivered to 2,753 women farmers in South Africa.

Besides business skills, the CSA programme is designed to increase productivity, facilitate access to higher value markets and supply chains, and yield high quality produce.

 Graham Chipande

“By the end of the programme, we want to ensure that women farmers are well equipped to thrive in a changing climate,” said Keneilwe Nailana, senior manager Agri Business, Standard Bank South Africa. “They will also be better placed to move up the value chain and access new markets and finance, and ultimately to grow their businesses.”

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