UNDP Accelerator Labs and Egyptian Food Bank Partner to Empower Women in Agriculture

June 4, 2024


Women's Role in Egypt's Agricultural Sector

Egyptian women contribute to 21.3% of the official labor force, predominantly in low-paying jobs. However, a significant 71% are active in the informal economy, particularly within agriculture. Despite their involvement, women often occupy the lowest rungs of the agrifood value chain, grappling with seasonal, labor-intensive work and enduring long-term debt cycles. This disparity underscores the urgent need for initiatives to uplift women in the sector.

UNDP's Accelerator Labs Initiative

Recognizing these challenges, UNDP Egypt has intensified its efforts to address sustainable development issues, leveraging its Accelerator Labs. With innovative methodologies, UNDP aims to help enhance the socio-economic resilience of small-scale farmers and amplify the role of women in agriculture, particularly in areas vulnerable to climate change.

Partnership with Egyptian Food Bank

UNDP Egypt's Accelerator Lab recently inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Egyptian Food Bank (EFB) during COP28 in Dubai. The EFB, dedicated to combating hunger through innovative means across Egypt's governorates, brings over 15 years of experience in addressing food insecurity. This partnership aims to co-design and implement projects focusing on enhancing the socio-economic resilience of small farmers and promoting the role of women in agriculture, particularly in climate-affected areas.

Since January 2021, UNDP has engaged in extensive exploration efforts in collaboration with the Desert Research Center and Agricultural Research Centre. This involved conducting interviews and surveys with stakeholders in Cairo and the Delta region to pinpoint signals of change within the agriculture sector, particularly concerning climate change.

Additionally, future-thinking workshops engaged 40 Delta-based and 25 Cairo-based stakeholders, including farmers of all genders and ages, agribusiness representatives, governmental institutions, and organizations supporting agricultural initiatives. These workshops utilized "Future/Foresight Thinking," an innovative tool that encourages systemic thinking by envisioning and constructing future scenarios, aiming at identifying the opportunities and challenges if considering the future of women and agriculture by 2050. Participants produced valuable insights into how the future might unfold for women in agriculture. These scenarios range from envisioning a future where women are well educated with good access technology, well empowered and even dominating the agrifood sector (Market, agribusiness, farming …etc.) to one where opportunities remain scarce and there is a lack of education and lack of access to technology.

Deeper analysis for the findings was conducted using by a series of collective intelligence workshops that aimed at validation & scaling up for the insights, in collaboration with the Ministry of International Cooperation.

After three years of exploration and scaling-up efforts, we've reached a crucial understanding: addressing the needs of women as primary beneficiaries and stakeholders in the agrifood system demands thorough diagnosis, analysis, and understanding. 

This isn't a straightforward task. 

Gender equality and women's empowerment are fundamental, especially in greening the economy and designing effective solutions. 

Our exploration, particularly focused on agritourism and climate-smart agriculture, revealed that women are not just influencers but decision-makers in this transformation. Their role must be elevated for any meaningful systemic change to occur. 

For instance, in agritourism, the promotion of gastronomy hinges on having confident female farmers. Similarly, rural women play a pivotal role in the acceptance and innovation of climate-smart crops, impacting cultivation and adoption on a wide scale.

Taking a step forward, we've engaged global stakeholders in foresight exercises during COP28 to emphasize the importance of promoting women's roles in agriculture. This exercise, utilizing futures literacy labs, aims to build capacity among stakeholders.

Based on our exploration journey, we've already outlined some priority recommendations for shaping a resilient future for women in agriculture by 2050:

Promoting Access to Finance for Women in Agriculture:

  • Designing innovative financial products tailored to women along the agrifood value chain.
  • Building financial capacity for small female farmers.
  • Integrating crop and climate change insurance.

Empowering Women Across Agricultural Value Chains:

  • Integrating farmers' visions through Futures Labs.
  • Designing a Market Information System to support women-led agribusinesses.
  • Facilitating the clustering of small farmers and enhancing connectivity through apps and social platforms.
  • Reviving cooperatives and building capacity for local CSOs and NGOs in rural areas.

Providing Capacity Building and Technical Support for Women in Agriculture:

  • Offering training in animal production, smart agriculture, and climate-smart crops.
  • Supporting sustainable marketing practices, including promotion and environmentally friendly packaging.

Gender equality and women's empowerment are not only fundamental but also essential for driving meaningful systemic change, especially in greening the economy and crafting effective solutions. As we anticipate the future, partnerships will play a pivotal role in elevating the role of women in agriculture. It's not just beneficial but necessary for constructing a resilient sector capable of navigating future uncertainties.