Despite their central role in the sector, women farmers face a number of constraints stemming from gender inequality, including limited access to farm inputs and technology, information, credit, and training services, all of which adversely affect their productivity. Research shows that if women farmers in Kenya had more equitable access to farm inputs, household agricultural output could increase by 10 to 20 percent.
Agro-dealers are locally-based independent entrepreneurs who sell certified improved seeds and fertilizers, as well as other agricultural inputs, offer trainings on input use, link farmers to credit and markets, and mobilize farmers to form Farmer Input Savings and Loan (FISL) groups,. Recent ICRW research in Kenya shows that women farmers interact closely with agro-dealers, attending their trainings and demonstrations more frequently than men. Women also constitute the majority of FISL members. However, the services agro-dealers offer are largely gender-blind and do not take into account women’s particular needs, preferences and constraints to enable women to better access inputs and services. Thus a gendered response to the needs and preferences of their customer base can potentially improve agro-dealers’ business returns while also improving the productivity and food security of Kenyan farmers.
The goal of the project is to design, implement and evaluate an innovative, gender-responsive capacity development intervention targeting agro-dealers and men and women farmers in FISL groups. The three-arm study will test the hypothesis that a gender-responsive agro-dealer business model combined with a package of technical training, group strengthening and gender training for FISL members leads to the best outcomes for agro-dealers (profitability) and women and men farmers (productivity increases, food security).