International Day of Rural Women 2022: how we’re helping to transform the lives of women farmers

October 2022
Jane Akinyi is smiling at the camera and holding a basket of seeds.
All images © Ninth Wonder Productions/Sightsavers

International Rural Women’s Day is an annual event dedicated to the millions of women living in rural areas. It celebrates the contributions – and achievements – of these women to food security.

To mark this, we are highlighting the stories of some of the women farmers we work with in rural western Kenya. These women are being economically empowered, and at the same time, are challenging negative attitudes which say that people with disabilities cannot be successful at farming.

Inclusive Futures’ work is supporting women farmers with and without disabilities to be part of the agricultural supply chain of East Africa Breweries Limited in Kenya. Through introducing farmers to organise collectively through the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture hub model, we help them to access seeds, fertiliser, and provide them with increased power to negotiate better deals with suppliers. Through working with organisations of people with disabilities and women-led organisations, we are working to ensure that income is channelled into the hands of women with disabilities.

Funded by USAID, the Global Labor Program builds on pilot work previously funded by UK Aid, which gave farmers with disabilities training and resources to grow sorghum – which is essential to brew Senator keg beer – more efficiently. The programme has been scaled up to work with hundreds more farmers with and without disabilities. It is also supporting women entrepreneurs to become part of Coca Cola Beverages Africa’s retailor network in Kenya.

Erinah Susan has a visual impairment. She is working at her stall and is counting onions in her hands.

“When you empower a woman, you've empowered a community.”

Erinah Susan has a visual impairment. She is working at her stall and is counting onions in her hands.

Erinah Susan – Kisumu, Kenya.

Why is it important to focus on the inclusion of women with disabilities?

Learn about the farmers’ stories, the challenges they face and the successes they are having through supplying sorghum

Maren Atieno, a sorghum farmer, cuts down leaves from a tree on her farm

“People said I will not be able to see my children through school – that because of my disability I cannot look for money.”

Maren is a farmer and widow from Homa Bay County. Through her work, she is challenging perceptions of what women with disabilities can achieve.
Read Maren's story.

Linet Lucy is photographed in her shop. She is smiling at the camera and holding some of the farm products she sells.

“People living with a disability, people ignore them. But they should be given the opportunity in any society.”

Lucy Linet is a farm hub manager and runs a successful business where she sells seeds, fertiliser and other farming products to support her family.
Read Lucy Linet's story.

A woman farmer is photographed on her land holding farming tools and seeds.

“We as women, we have children. Sometimes you realise that you are not able to help them because of your status.”

Jane uses her income from sorghum farming to support her seven children and her husband, who has a heart condition so is unable to work.
Read Jane's story.

Find out more about our research, and what we have learned so far through focusing on gender, social inclusion and labour rights

A group of women taking part in a focus group discussion led by Ulula smile at the camera.

“Participants provided detailed examples of how they had faced workplace discrimination based on their disability.”

Global technology and analytics company Ulula is using human-centred design to create a digital platform that will share labour rights information with workers.
Read Ulula's blog

Lucas, a farmer with a disability and a network hub manager stands in front of his shop.

“767 people in our sample reported having a disability. 38% reported experiencing stigma related to their disability.”

Innovations for Poverty Action and Sightsavers reflect on the initial results of a baseline survey carried out at the beginning of the programme.
Read the blog.

Maren, a sorghum farmer, washes items in a bucket outside her home.

“Access to and control of resources like land, is a key issue. Women usually do not own land and have no rights to property.”

KEFEADO carried out research to understand how issues around gender and disability intersect to limit the participation of women in value chains.
Watch our interview.