Enhancing access to training & skills

We are improving access to training and skills for women across our value chain.

The business case for training

Women and girls are often left behind when it comes to education. So providing access to training and skills is critical for expanding female participation in the economy.

In developing countries, women already comprise 43% of the agricultural workforce, and this proportion is growing1. This presents an opportunity for us to build capacity in certain regions, such as Africa, where we have a focus on developing our business. Investing in the skills of girls and women will help us grow even further.

Our approach

We view investing in capabilities as going beyond simply providing training. We recognise that there are multiple barriers that are holding women back. Issues such as the timing, location and accessibility of training, the need for childcare, and husband and family attitudes toward women’s participation all need to be considered.

By the end of 2015, we had provided access to training and skills for over 730,000 women in our extended agricultural supply chain.

Mapping women in agriculture

In 2014, using our Sustainable Livelihoods Assessment Tool, we began tracking the total number of women farmers in our supply chain. We wanted to understand the role that women play so that we can look for opportunities for them. The programmes initially assessed farmers growing black soy beans in Indonesia, gherkins and tomatoes in India, vanilla in Madagascar and tea in Kenya.

Results showed that around a quarter of smallholder farmers in these supply chains are women, and that the highest percentage is in Indonesia where they grow black soybeans for use in our popular Bango soy sauce. We are teaching these farmers – both men and women - to increase their yields, improve quality and efficiency, and ultimately boost their incomes. In addition, with Gadjah Mada University, we developed the Mallika black soybean, which is resistant to droughts, floods and pests. This improves the crop for farmers and ensures a reliable supply for us.

Training women in our agricultural supply chain

Globally women face challenges working in agricultural supply chains. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women tend to have smaller farms that are less productive2. This is because they have more limited access to resources than men – fewer inputs, limitations on ownership, and barriers in access to training and financing. In some countries, men are also migrating to cities. This imposes a ‘double burden’ on the women left behind as they are left with full responsibility for the farm and the home.

As a business, we are linked to more than 1.5 million smallholder farmers, many of whom are women. Most of our relationships with smallholders are indirect, through our suppliers. Working with them, we provide a range of training:

  • direct agronomy support,
  • financial support for farmers’ training programmes delivered by third parties,
  • funding for technical solutions that improve environmental efficiency and productivity,
  • premium prices for suppliers that invest in agronomy programmes and provide farmers with planting material (including high-yielding seed),
  • linkages with experts to build pest-management programmes.

Additionally, we are working with partners to develop training in financial literacy, hygiene and nutrition. These programmes will be incorporated into our existing agricultural training programmes.

We run a number of agricultural training programmes for our smallholders. For example, we are empowering rural women in Sudan to increase the yields on their farms, helping them implement smart steps to improve the quality and value of their produce. This represents a big step forward in a country which has traditionally excluded women from education and training.

Globally however, women still face barriers to accessing training, despite often being responsible for large portions of the day-to-day tasks and management of farm operations. Financial literacy for women, and access to funding, is critical for the empowerment of women. Cultural norms, such as men holding ownership of farms, are also a barrier. Training sessions often need to be delivered or targeted differently to account for women’s specific circumstances.

We ensure training is held at convenient times in accessible locations and that women have access to support structures such as childcare to improve attendance. An example of one action we are taking is in Madagascar, where we prioritise women vanilla smallholders for training.

Improving sustainability for tea growers in Kenya & India

According to the Ethical Tea Partnership, up to 60% of Kenya's tea is grown by smallholder farmers; and in a survey undertaken by the Sustainable Food Lab 39% of tea smallholders' work is undertaken by women. To source high-quality tea, we buy from smallholders through the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA).

In 2006, we set out to source all tea for our Lipton teabags from sustainable sources by 2015. All of KTDA’s 66 factories, to which there are around 560,000 smallholder farmers supplying to them, have now been certified in sustainable cultivation by Rainforest Alliance (RA). Many smallholders who rely on tea for two-thirds of their incomes are seeing yields up to 35% higher. This means better income, health and education for them and their families.

In India, we are co-funding a programme to produce approximately 500,000 tonnes of sustainable tea with IDH and Tata Global Beverages Ltd. The programme, which is being delivered by Solidaridad, aims to provide 500,000 tea estate workers and 40,000 smallholder farmers with training covering the social, economic and environmental elements of tea growing. It is projected that over half the participants will be women.

Training women farmers leads to better yields

We run a variety of other programmes to help women farmers increase their yields and secure supply for our brands. For example, in Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, we are developing a sustainable supply chain for hibiscus for our herbal infusions, such as Elephant Red Fruits, Saga Forest Fruit and Lipton Strawberry Raspberry. With our supplier Martin Bauer, we are training 5,000 women smallholders in 30 villages to increase yields. We also are supporting better health, for example through providing the women with access to clean drinking water and health and hygiene programmes.

In Madagascar, we signed a public–private partnership with our supplier Symrise and German development agency GIZ in 2014 to improve the livelihoods of vanilla farmers, many of whom are women. We are teaching how to maximise cash crops in order to boost incomes. Over 3,200 women are participating in the initiative aimed at improving their agricultural practices and the quality of their livelihoods across 32 farming villages. It is also improving access to primary education, which has the potential to benefit 20,000 people.

Providing funding to enhance livelihoods

We have also developed two funds that are helping women farmers. We work with pioneering investor Acumen and the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership, an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, on the Enhancing Livelihoods Investment Initiative. Through this, we aim to improve the livelihoods of 60,000 smallholder farmers, many of whom are women. 

In partnership with Oxfam and the Ford Foundation, we are also supporting supplier match-funded projects that empower women and improve the livelihoods of smallholders, workers and their communities.

1 Source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/am307e/am307e00.pdf (p.35)

2 Source: http://www.fao.org/gender/gender-home/gender-why/key-facts/en/

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