A basket case for women and value chains

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A woman organizes colored reeds for the basketweaving trade. Gender mainstreaming means supporting women to gain equal access to training, markets, and credit.

Gender mainstreaming you say? The term may sound rather technical, but all it means is empowerment for women — one of the most important tasks on the road to food security and poverty reduction.

On average, women represent 43% of the agricultural labor force (FAO, 2010) and they provide essential contributions to agriculture and the rural economy in all developing regions. To make sure that support is provided for women to effectively lead agricultural development, we need to focus efforts and choose pathways that can reach them well. The value chain approach may be one of the best bets for women’s empowerment, as the example of basketry in Madagascar demonstrates.

Basketry based on plant fiber is a female-dominated value chain that remains the main income-generating activity for many women in the Sofia Region of Madagascar.

Mrs. Perlette is part of a group of weavers supported by the PROSPERER IFAD Project in Madagascar, which is hosting a booth at the 6th FARA Africa Agriculture Science Week in Accra, Ghana. Mrs. Perlette has always been a weaver and used to produce 42 bags a month, selling each for a meager 25 cents.

Needing a change, Mrs. Perlette learned of an opportunity to get support from PROSPERER. She did not hesitate to come forward to the program, and soon became the leader of Mahialambo women’s handicraft association.

A plan for capacity building was set up and PROSPERER started to support the organization with trainings in technique, marketing, entrepreneurship, and savings and credit. Mrs. Perlette was among the best in the training sessions and became distinguished for her fine craftsmanship.

The selling price of her bags rose from 25 cents to 1 dollar. Outside of Sofia, they went for as high as $1.25.  Mrs. Perlette catered to customer demand and dedicated herself to the continuous improvement of her products, coming up with some truly original designs.

With her increased income, she was able to buy pieces of furniture for her home – something she could never have done before. She was even able to send her four children to private schools using solely her own finances, thanks to the savings account she managed using what she learned from PROSPERER.

Mrs. Perlette is convinced that it is possible to make any activity profitable if it is based on a clear vision and supported by good will and hard work. She is currently pursuing professional certification in the weaving business and is aiming to sell her products abroad in the future.

Blogpost by Sonia Andrianarivelo, a social media reporter for AASW6.


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