GENDER platform news

Women’s links with markets must be improved to make robust agri-food systems, vibrant rural communities: Experts

Women in dairy factory in India Photo: ILRI/Douglas Varchol.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emphasis on Nari Shakti (women power) and the G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration clarion call for “women-led development”, experts say now is the ideal time to reinforce gender equality in agri-food systems.

Chandigarh, September 29, 2023: Agricultural gender researchers, speaking in a recent webinar, agreed that true commitment to women-led development requires improving women’s opportunities in agri-food markets. This includes facilitating their access to finance and networks and putting in place policies and innovations that support women’s entrepreneurship – in India and elsewhere.

In advance of the international gender research conference, “From research to impact: Towards just and resilient agri-food systems”, experts addressed journalists from Haryana and Punjab in a recent webinar. Dr Seema Jaggi, Assistant Director General (Human Resource Development), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, Director for Youth, Gender and Inclusiveness at Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); Dr Rahma Adam, Social Inclusion and Market Scientist, CGIAR; Dr Ranjitha Puskur, Research Leader, CGIAR, were among the speakers.

The upcoming conference, which will take place in New Delhi on October 9-12, is designed to share cutting-edge knowledge and bridge the gap between research and practice to foster gender-equal and socially inclusive, resilient food systems. It is hosted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform.

“Research forms the backbone of good policies, and ICAR, having been at the forefront of critical research is proud to have a unique, women-centric Central Institute for Women in Agriculture, designed for this," said Dr. Jaggi.

Successfully addressing women’s challenges requires research on their limited opportunities in markets, their wants and needs, to be able to distill evidence and recommendations that can inform enabling policies in countries such as India.

“Research provides the needed evidence and guidance by identifying emergent issues, closing data gaps, and pointing out the challenges and opportunities women face. The generated evidence can be used to provide solutions and pathways to reduce gender inequalities and increase social inclusion in the food systems,” said Dr Adam.


While India today has 13.5–15.7 million women-owned enterprises, representing 20% of all enterprises, there is potential to expand women’s entrepreneurship.

“While large as absolute numbers, these existing businesses are overwhelmingly comprised of single-person enterprises, which provide direct employment for an estimated 22 to 27 million people. Benchmarks from high-performing countries and Indian states provide a good yardstick for India to accelerate women’s entrepreneurship overall. Accelerating quantity and quality of entrepreneurship towards such benchmarks can create over 30 million women-owned enterprises, of which 40% can be more than self-employment. This can generate potentially transformational employment in India, of 150–170 million jobs, which is more than 25% of the new jobs required for the entire working-age population, from now until 2030,” said Dr Puskur.


Reflecting on Haryana and Punjab, Dr Puskur highlighted the multiple opportunities available for women in these states, including dairy enterprises, agri-input dealerships, food processing, which offers high margins, and farmer producers organisations.

Sharing her experiences from African countries, Bashuna pointed out three major barriers for women seeking opportunities in markets: limited access to competitive assets such as capital investments, financial planning and networks; lack of market access for products and services; and contextual constraints including restrictive gender norms.

“Simplifying access to finance, strengthening nano and small entrepreneurs, tailoring financing schemes and building capacity are some of the suggested measures to make women part of agri-food markets and value chains.”


The event was moderated by Marianne Gadeberg, communications consultant with the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform. Many journalists also participated in the discussion and shared insightful perspectives. The webinar was organised by GreyMatters Communications and development communication platform Fijeeha.


Media contacts:

Divyansh Upadhayay

GreyMatters Communications


Aparajita Kujur

International Rice Research Institute