Agricultural markets as nodal points for economic activity : are agricultural markets gender inclusive?

17 Mar 2017

It is argued that women play a vital role in food production and processing in many parts of the world such as hoeing, weeding, harvesting, storing and selling despite having limited access to agricultural inputs such as land, extension services and finance. Besides the production of food for household consumption, women also need access to markets in order to be able to sell their produce and buy other household products. Markets however are said to be male dominated and this has a negative impact on the participation of women, perpetuating female poverty and lack of financial independence. Whilst discrimination against women in terms of access to markets is not direct, the impact is felt more by women than men. Women unlike men are said to have low mobility in that they cannot travel long distances to markets due to custom or due to reproductive work done mainly by them such as taking care of children, cooking, fetching water and firewood. Most markets especially in rural areas are situated far from home and may entail a lot of travelling and that may affect taking care of domestic chores by women, as such most women prefer trading in local markets which are closer to home allowing them to carry out other household responsibilities. The drawback with the localisation of women in local markets is that there is often serious competition which lowers prices and affects profit. Arguably, this is the reason why many women are concentrated in one market place selling the same thing. Historically, women's low literacy levels are also said to hinder access to markets. This is because of the complexity of markets in terms of knowledge of market value chains, linkages with other service providers, acquiring new skills to improve production and general lack of awareness of new business opportunities. This paper is a desk top analysis of the nature of markets with regard to gender inclusiveness. The aim is to evaluate the extent of women's involvement in agricultural markets placing more emphasis on their challenges as compared to men.