Trading tedium for technology to increase productivity, incomes for women farmers
Technologies likely to make a difference in the daily lives of rural women farmers are those that address their specific needs based on the division of labor in developing countries.
For women, benefits would have to go beyond increased productivity and income. When their drudgery and tedium are reduced, women have more time and confidence to pursue different activities. This includes assuming leadership in their communities, which in turn can help ensure the benefits of improved agriculture are shared more equally among both women and men.
A key commitment for SIMLESA is to empower rural women. One of the ways SIMLESA strives to do this is through time- and labor-saving technologies targeting women. Since women generally handle the bulk of the weeding on Africa’s smallholder farms, using herbicides can be a major time-saver.
“I used to spend many hours doing exhausting hand-weeding in my fields, but my yields still decreased every farming season,” said Angeline Odero, a smallholder farmer from Boro Community in Central Alego Ward, in Siaya County, Western Kenya. Eastern and Southern Africa farmers lose about 30 percent of their potential maize yield because of late weeding.
Thanks to the SIMLESA project, Angeline and 2,000 other farmers in her area received training in good agricultural practices focusing on the importance of using new technologies for weed-free crops and increased yields. Using farmer-hosted demonstration plots, SIMLESA introduced the use of herbicide technology to help reduce drudgery for smallholder farmers, for whom labor shortage is a major constraint.
After seeing the excellent weed control on the demonstration plots and receiving training and technical assistance this season, farmers in Boro applied the herbicide to their maize and legume crops.
Without herbicides, Angeline harvested two tonnes of maize per hectare; with the herbicide, she is now harvesting five tonnes of maize per hectare. The increase in yield translated to increased gross margins from less than USD 5,000 per hectare up to a range between USD 6,500 and USD 8,000 per hectare. With the herbicide, she reduced her cost of weeding from USD 160 per hectare using hired labor and traditional weeding practices to less than USD 60 per hectare.
“I couldn’t cope with hand weeding. Herbicides save us time, money and energy,” said Angeline.