Women’s day: In South Sudan, agriculture is the engine of women’s empowerment

An AVSI study demonstrates how development projects in the agricultural sector have contributed to the advancement of gender equality in South Sudan. A replicable experience to support female empowerment.

Historically, the sole objective for women engaging in agricultural activities was to feed their family; however, men migrating out of their villages for social and political reasons, has resulted in the female population taking control of the agricultural activities and this has transformed women’s gender roles at the family and community level as they are now perceived as the head of the whole agricultural supply and value chain.

On the occasion of International Women’s Rights Day, AVSI publishes the study “Gender analysis: exploring successful agro-businesses to foster cooperation between genders in South Sudan” conducted by AVSI between May and July 2022, which highlights how economic opportunities, in particular agricultural activities, have favored the empowerment of women in South Sudan.

The assessment was based on the underlying premise that building social capital is a viable means of rebalancing the power relations between men and women. The main findings suggest that by being engaged in agricultural activities, women have gained a set of abilities and knowledge, such as mastering the basics of budgeting and making business by selling their products in the market, and this has given women a sense of increased agency and independence (as indicated in both Eastern Equatoria State (EES) and Lakes State (LS)).

In addition, it has been revolutionary for women to establish self-managed women farmer groups, a practice that they were never able to participate in previously. This has undoubtedly contributed to South Sudanese women feeling more autonomous and independent.

“It is important to note – adds Bruno Nazim Baroni AVSI Head of MEAL for Eastern and Southern Africa area -, that one must not forget that without the inclusion of the male population, female economic empowerment could be perceived simply as women being more valuable assets. Female farmers have stated the importance of training and awareness for both genders. They have emphasized the need for NGOs to focus on both avenues of support, rather than providing solely agricultural assets and loans. Therefore, to fully transform the deeply embedded gender narratives in South Sudan, it is fundamental to raise men’s awareness of gender-based violence and peacebuilding, while also providing them with the necessary training on peaceful interaction and collaboration. Effective communication spaces and awareness campaigns specifically addressed to men will contribute to more positive gender norms and increased gender equality”. 

Gender analysis: exploring successful agro-businesses to foster cooperation between genders in South Sudan.

The testimony of Selwa Joice, involved in an agriculture project in Juba county

Taking part in an AVSI project to increase agricultural production now allows me to support my children, not only by adding nutrients to our diet, but with the income from working as a farmer I can pay their school fees and build suitable housing for their needs. Not only that but by improving my condition I can now be a true asset to my community. In 2016, when many people in my village were suffering from hunger, I tried to distribute food to those in need. Today I feel I have a recognized role for my skills and my value. I feel like the protagonist of my life, that of my family, and that of the whole community

Selwa Joice, 35, farmer involved in the AMVAT project supported by the African Development Bank (AdB) through FAO