Scientific Publication

Empowering Smallholder Women Farmers through Participatory Seed Potato Management: Lessons from Welmera District, Ethiopia


Women are often ignored from research and development agenda although they play key roles in agriculture in developing countries. They are excluded from decision making and as a result, they frequently do not have access to resources, technologies and extension services, credits, inputs and markets. This paper aims to document, using qualitative methods, how participatory approach through Farmers Research Group (FRG) can address gender inequalities and subsequently empower women smallholder farmers using a case study from Ethiopia. Through the participatory intervention, women farmers have enhanced their skills and knowledge of improved agricultural technologies as well as their collective capacity (social capital) in accessing input and output markets. As a result, the number of FRG members increased from 25 women farmers organized in one FRG in 2006 to 253 women farmers organized in 11 village-level Farmers Research Extension Groups (FREGs) in 2013. The participatory intervention in the study area has improved women’s productivity of seed potatoes and marketing; enabled them to earn cash an average of Ethiopian Birr (ETB) 11 000 per year only from the sale of seed potatoes; and this has created more options to improve the livelihoods of women farmers and their households by diversifying into higher-value farm and off-farm work. Consequently, women decision making in the household as well as in the community has been enhanced. Women farmers are now heard at national level for their innovative experiences and have become one of the national seed potato and knowledge sources. There is a need to replicate this model approach to enhance the productivity of smallholder women farmers and subsequently empower them to facilitate exit pathways out of poverty and ensure sustainable development.