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31 March 2013 | Anna Reynolds
Agricultural supply chains are supporting women across Africa by giving them greater independence and offering more choice in life, according to research by food processor Olam.
Olam, an international firm whose products include coffee, rice and sugar, carried out a survey in February of 5,971 women working in its cashew processing plants in Nigeria, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ivory Coast and India.
The survey asked the women to choose the most important reason they value their job, apart from the obvious financial benefit. The results found 36 per cent said working gives them independence and choice, 33 per cent said employment provides status and confidence, while 19 per cent felt their job gives them useful information to take back to their families. Only 12 per cent answered none of these.
Briony Mathieson, head of corporate and sustainability communications, said: “As a global employer, Olam is well placed to help understand how opportunities in agricultural processing, rather than in subsistence farming, are supporting women in remote rural communities. These findings – although only an anecdotal snapshot – strongly suggest that these jobs provide much more than just a wage packet.”
Olam’s research supports a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, which found 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries is made up of women, adding that jobs such as processing offer better opportunities for women than traditional agricultural work.
Olam has been processing crops closer to where they are grown to reduce costs and carbon emissions, while retaining the economic value of the crops within the country of origin. It is also developing programmes to create more jobs in rural communities and training people to improve crop yields and secure income.