Gender in Agriculture Partnership

Transforming agriculture to empower women and deliver food, nutrition and income security

Project Proposal on Gender Mainstreaming in Agriculture Forestry & Food Security


The Government of Sierra Leone has in the past five years prioritized agriculture in its agenda for change and has again mainstreamed agriculture in the Agenda for Prosperity as a gateway for job creation for youths and women.  This requires a lot more resources to achieve targets that will make agriculture a business rather than just for subsistence purposes.   The Sierra Leone Government signed the CAADP programme in 2009 and has provided 10% of its national budget to agriculture, however, a large proportion of the population is engaged in Agricultural activities and this requires a lot more support.

Agriculture has been the major preoccupation of the population of Sierra Leone, especially those in the rural areas of the country. It serves to provide the basic needs of the people such as food and income, and employment for over 75% of the labour force in the rural areas. It is also a great contributor estimated at 48% to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security has the Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP) designed as the flagship programme to promote strategic policy shifts that will foster agricultural productivity and promote commercial agriculture through private sector and Farmer-Based Organizations (FBOs) promotion. Despite the substantial progress made since 2010/2011, many challenges still hamper the productive potentials of smallholder farmers and socio-economic growth. These include low productive capacity, limited access to financial services, limited access to improved inputs and extension services, limited market access and low income levels from the sale of products.

The Smallholder Commercialization Programme is currently pursued with the intention of directly targeting smallholder farmers who are the majority in terms of food insecurity and poverty.   The strategy is to get these smallholders promoted to engage in production activities along the agricultural value chain to boost their productivity and incomes. It sets out the following targets:

  1. Increased agricultural sector growth from its current 4 per cent to 7.7 per cent per annum by 2015;
  2. Increased incomes of farming households by 10 per cent by 2015;
  3.  Increased household food security by 25 per cent by 2015.

In the Country’s perspective, considerable progress has been made, but there is still a lot more to be done in order to achieve these targets. 

Within the Ministry, there is in existence Gender Desk Offices in the 13 districts, with little or no support to such structures. There is limited knowledge of both personnel and farmers on gender related issues and therefore evidence of the 5% of women in the decision –making levels in the Agriculture Ministry. In view of the above, there is need therefore to change the outlook, increase more women to engage in decision-making levels and to capacitate them at all levels.  Training provided to MAFFS Staff, farmers to mainstream gender issues in agriculture.  

Women globally and especially those in the rural areas are key players in the agriculture sector. They are engaged in almost activities in the food production processes such as land clearing, ploughing, planting, weeding, and harvesting. Despite these, they are key players in post-harvest processes such food processing, preservation, preparation and marketing. It is generally believed that without the participation of the women in these processes agricultural development would be difficult to achieve.

Despite the important roles the rural women play in the sector, due recognition is hardly given to them. They are seemingly marginalized, with most opportunities they need for their participation in the processes denied them. There is every reason for them to be capacitated or empowered to fully participate in the development of the sector if success on the food security drive can be actualized. Such empowerment considerations need to fully take into account such as access or ownership of land, credit facilities from formal financial institutions, agricultural technologies and production information, and decision making processes.

While globally, in Africa, women who constitute about 75%  of the population and about 60% mostly engaged in agricultural activities, yet they are seriously been discriminated against in decision making and even in managing and use agricultural incomes. Both men and women are faced with constraints in their agricultural productivity in Sierra Leone. However, there are gender-differential access to and control over key productive resources--land, finances and labour—that tends to limit women’s productivity significantly more than men.

The gender relations in Sierra Leone like in other parts of the world are shaped by significant interactions amongst its economic, social, political, historical and cultural factors. This interplay in any society can be seen in the inequitable distribution of resources between men and women. In mainstreaming gender issues in agricultural requires a look into at the inequalities that women faced in agriculture. Although women play a vital role in agric. Production, but their workload in food production is undervalued, they lack access to land, resources, entitlements, inputs, credit facilities and have limited technologies.  

Problem Analysis and Justification

In Africa, and the sub-region, to be specific especially in the rural areas women have limited access to land, even where there is access the land ownership poses a serious challenge thereby limiting these highly populated constituents low potential in agricultural productivity. Unlike in major cities, such as Freetown women have access to land but also determined by their socio-economic status. Outside of the Western area, customary practices determine land access. Most of the constraints face by women in the provinces comes from the inheritance system, which is primarily patrilineal access and property pass through the male gender there by discriminating against the women. Even amongst couples, no sooner the husband dies, the woman is left with no option but to see assets especially been transferred to male relatives of her husband thereby rendering her powerless. However, for most women  who come from a weak  and poor family, and not strong enough to be in a position to exercise her marital rights and hence vulnerable to exploitation and even a sort of domestic “slavery” existence, especially if her patrilineal family are not in a position to reimburse her bride wealth should she want a divorce.

Women also encounter problems over control of land when their husbands died. If there are children from the marriage, they will inherit the land. If there are no children but a woman exercises her levirate law option and re-marries into her late husband’s family, she can continue to cultivate the land . However if she does chooses to re-marry outside her husband’s family, she can lose her rights over land that she may have cultivate and invested in over many years. Should the woman returns to her patrilineal family, she can regain her rights to land for cultivation from the male head her family. Finally, Sierra Leone as a country does not have a land tenure reform system over land ownership and access especially in the rural areas.

Another challenge face by women in agricultural productivity is their  limited or no access to labour due to lack of financial resources to pay for farm labour thereby limiting their production levels. Furthermore, women’s time is also greatly stretched among their multiple roles as wives, mothers, and income earners.

Generally, rural men and women have limited access to credit and other financial services. The allocation of credit to the agricultural sector can be described as low if any at all. High interest rates and lack of collateral are other factors impeding rural farming systems access to financial services. On average women tend to have less valuable assets. As a result, they generally tend to have more difficulty than men in accessing formal financial services (credit and savings) due to lack of acceptable collateral, inability to present their ventures as bankable projects and lack of familiarity with the administrative processes of the banks.

The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Food Security through support from IFAD has established Financial Services Associations (FSAs) (Village banks) and Community Banks (CBs) in some parts of the country through which some groups have been supported. However, this assistance has been given without the necessary business and financial management capacity development to maximize profit from such interventions. Rural women and men are more comfortable and conversant with accessing credit from local osusu schemes which is still practiced but requires an improvement. Another challenge posed is that most of these FSAs and CBs provide access to financial resources for mainly petty trading rather than for agricultural productivity.

For many rural populations (in particular the young), agriculture is viewed with contempt and primarily seen as an activity for the poor with no other alternative to earn a living. This is particularly the case since there are not many Sierra Leoneans who have become rich through agriculture. Hence once people access financial resources, they generally tend to abandon agriculture and go into trading which is seen as more lucrative and less backbreaking.

For agriculture to take on new prominence among Sierra Leoneans, especially the young, there needs to be a transformation of attitude. But this will only come if agriculture is taken from subsistence to a surplus level.

It is often the assumption that available agricultural technology is gender bias as it generally tends to favor men’s productivity at the expense of women’s. The argument further implies that if gender-friendly technology could be made available to women, it will enhance their agricultural productivity.

Women in Sierra Leone overwhelmingly bear the responsibility for household care and support which impacts negatively on their economic production. One way to enhance their agricultural productivity is to lessen their household responsibilities is improved labour-saving technologies at home and even in agricultural production.

Another challenge women faced in agricultural productivity is on information dissemination about new and improved agricultural technologies wherein technology dissemination is mostly done by men and the culture does not allow women to freely interact with outside men thus limiting women farmers access to agricultural technologies.

Sierra Leone’s illiteracy rate is about 80% with the rate for females at 85%, and with such high national illiteracy rates, one can safely assume that the implication for rural agricultural production is that such low illiteracy rates affect rural people’s access to market information, access to extension services and adoption of new technologies. Farmers and fisher folks need basic literacy and in particular numeracy skills to improve business management operations such as costing, pricing, profit and loss assessment and the opportunity costs of production. Women, in particular, are more disadvantaged in this area because of their higher illiteracy rate relative to those of men’s.

Sierra Leone has many formidable farmers’ associations and co-operatives for both men and women farmers. The Women in Agriculture and Nutrition is established in MAFFS, however, this unit is under-resourced and has limited capacity to support other national women farmers federation.  There is an existing network of roads, but most of them are in bad condition. A complex network of socially regulated interchange occurs within villages and  markets, but their narrowness is a function of distances for which men and women can walk with head loads in the absence of any other form of transport. Poor feeder roads network to food producing areas is a constraint to farmers who have the task to transport products to marketing centres.

Women’s production is more vulnerable to poor feeder roads because of the highly perishable nature of the types of products primarily vegetables they produce. Unlike rice, palm oil and other cash crops, vegetables must be transported to destination markets with as little delay as possible once harvested, particularly in the absence of cold storage facilities to prolong their shelf life.

Healthcare facilities are available at the district capitals in rural Sierra Leone, where most agricultural productions take place. Healthcare facilities are rudimentary or absent at the sub-district or village-level. Rural communities have to cope with less than qualified medical personnel and herbalists to address their health-related problems. Infant and birth-related mortality in Sierra Leone are among the highest in the world. But if compared to other rates in the West Africa Regions, the rates in Sierra Leone are better as a result of the introduction of the Free Health Care. HIV /AIDS is an increasing concern, the present prevalence rates stand at1.5% nationwide, with rural at 4.0% and Freetown at 6.1%. There is no available data on the possible impact of HIV/AIDS and agriculture in Sierra Leone, as not much has been done on the subject. Any analysis on HIV/AIDS and agricultural production in Sierra Leone will have to rely mostly on the experience of other African countries; there is an area therefore that needs to be paid attention. Chronic malnutrition is very prevalent in rural Sierra Leone due to the population dislodgement as a result of the decade old conflict, poor feeding and caring practices, low food production and purchasing power and inadequate health, sanitation and water facilities. About 32% of chiefdoms in rural Sierra Leone experience long ‘hunger gaps’. In situations like these, rural women are burdened with tasks of nurturing sick family members and caring for the aged in addition to the multiple productive tasks they perform. Farm families with high nutrition vulnerability should be targeted for food aid during the ‘hunger gaps’ combined with nutritional education programmes in order to enhance household nutritional level for better health.  

However further analysis of rural Sierra Leone “hunger gap” is due to better understand its other cause outside the limited availability of food during the cultivating season. Issues such as the limited availability of food markets and feeder roads (in particular during the rainy season) needs to be analyze to determine how much they contribute to exacerbate the hunger gap and how can these constraints best be addressed. Rural people may not have food available in their immediate surroundings. But if such food is available elsewhere and can be accessed it will greatly reduce the impact of the “hunger gap” on the lives of rural people.

Both rural men and women are affected as the distances require to market their produce contributes to more post-harvest losses. Nonetheless there are gender implications that tend to impact more negatively on women. The majority of rural women must travel long distances with babies on their backs with heavy potage on their heads with risks to both the women’s health (for example fatigue) and that of her baby’s. Another gender implication is that since women are mostly involved with vegetable production, which is perishable, the long distances to market, makes their produce vulnerable to higher post-harvest losses resulting in reduced revenues from their productivity. Also, a large majority of women in the agricultural sector are also agricultural traders and as such they are further constrained in their access to markets for their produce. But, men are also equally affected by the lack of rural markets and limited transport to take produce to available distant markets. Another implication is that most rural farmers during the hungry period resort to taking advance loans from petty traders at low costs to augment their financial obligations especially during the hungry period, thereby during rendering them more impoverish than ever before.

Aim: To increase productivity, value addition (Processing, packaging, marketing and distribution) through gender mainstreaming in agriculture nation-wide over a period of five years.


  1. To build the capacities of Farmer Based Organizations, MAFFS extension staff on gender mainstreaming, HIV/AIDS and related issues in agricultural development.
  2. To equip the 13 district Women in Agriculture and Nutrition offices to acceptable standards to deliver services.
  3. Training women farmers on improved agricultural practices, technologies and research.
  4. To facilitate the development of a gender friendly land right policy on access to land and land ownership for women.
  5. To train women through e-farming in order to increase extension services
  6. To add value in agricultural production by supporting four Agricultural Business Centers (ABCs) with seeds, livestock and processing equipment.
  7. Construction of four processing centers with cooling systems and provision of fruits, vegetables, protein crops and small ruminants for women farmers so as to increase productivity, nutrition and value addition.
  8. To improve food diversification by raising awareness, training and using recipes to improve food and nutrition security.
  9.  Create enterprise development and leadership training centers in the four major towns in the Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western regions of Sierra Leone.
  10. To carry out an environmental protection assessment, raise awareness and develop alternative energy saving devices for farmers in the 13 districts of Sierra Leone.

Target Beneficiaries

The project beneficiaries are vulnerable women who are mostly women farmers, women with disabilities, widows, People Living with HIV/AIDS, youths. MAFFS extension staff will benefit from capacity building through massive training and equipment of offices of focal persons responsible for women in agriculture. Awareness will be raised in the 13 districts of Sierra Leone.

Project Duration

The project will last for five years starting from June 2013 to June 2017.

Implementation Strategies

This project will be implemented through a Project Management Unit which comprises of the Women in Agriculture and Nutrition (WAIN) and in collaboration with the National Federation of Women Farmers (NAFFSAL) and Indigenous Non Governmental Organization National Women’s Network for Peace and Development (NaWoPAD-SL) which operates in the 13 operational districts of Sierra Leone. The Project Management Unit (PMU) will supervise and monitor the day to day management of the project.  A baseline survey will be carryout to determine the level of knowledge, attitude practices related to gender issues and environmental protection and a post a knowledge Attitude and Practice survey to ascertain the impact of the project on beneficiaries. Four Women’s leadership and development centers will be established to train them in leadership, literacy, business management, modern agricultural practices and computer literacy and processing units developed, cool rooms and vehicles with cooling systems will be provided for vegetable growers. Women farmers will be provided with support to labour saving devices for female farmers Women farmers will be linked with private investors, traders in order to maximize profits from their farm products. Women and men farmers will be trained on electronic and mobile extension messages to increase their knowledge on new technologies. Facilitate the development of a policy in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands and the Environment pilot and pass bills in parliament on gender friendly land holding systems.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Donors, Non-Governmental Organizations, private sector and, indeed, the Government of Sierra Leone, should therefore focus their efforts on the women with adequate support in order to achieve the above objectives; a thorough assessment of their challenges/problems will be undertaken. A five year National strategic plan on gender issues will be developed within MAFFS as a policy direction towards achieving food self sufficiency and value addition. The project will hire the services of a consultant to develop the strategic plan. Furthermore, farmers (FBOs) and Sierra Leoneans will be sensitized on food/crop diversification by raising awareness, training and using recipes. The project will also provide support to increase the level of protein food crop production and utilization nationwide as this will help to address malnutrition issues.  Since women, youths and children are prone to environmental hazards in the communities, this project will also as a strategy, assess the environmental issues affecting food production, mobilize and increase the provision of sustainable energy saving devices. 

Project implementation Activity Plan




Agency Responsible



Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Year 5



Preparation and submission of project








Identification of Funding Agencies

Approval of project proposal







Availability of Funds


Collaborating partners







Secure Funding for Project Operations

Identification, Registration and distribution of women and youths into farmers Based  Association











Availability of Personnel for Project Operations

Conduct training workshops on food production, group dynamics, gender issues, leadership training, and nutrition and on food diversification and utilization.






MAFFS/IP/ Beneficiaries

Availability of people with the requisite skills to conduct training


Carryout assessment on the environment, train women, youths and traditional leaders on environmental protection issues and its effects on food production.


Provision of energy saving devices for women. 







Availability of people with the requisite skills to conduct the assessment






Availability of technology to produce energy saving devices

Procurement and Distribution of Agric. Inputs to FBOs







Farmers organized and willing to undertake production activities

Construction of Women’s Agricultural Production and  processing centers    for value addition








Funds acquired in the right amount and on time

Monitoring and evaluation






















Engaging women in agriculture so as to create jobs for employment and food security improvement


Identification and selection of beneficiaries and provision of support to


Increase in  willingness  and participation by women  

Awareness created amongst women

Recipients participating   in the project.

Reduce poverty through increasing food production and raising the productivity, income and standard of livelihood of women in chiefdoms

Land, tools, inputs, training and supervision

Provision of tools and food for work to the project beneficiaries

Increase in women’s productivity and incomes  



Availability of seeds/planting

Materials to beneficiaries at affordable cost

Targeted women  contributing    to the project


Food for work  provided to beneficiaries


Tools, planting materials and livestock  provided at affordable cost.


The Sustainability of project activities.

Monitoring and Evaluation Plan

Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is essential for a results-based approach to program management. After being a key component of project design, M&E remains incorporated into all facets of the project cycle through its completion. The M&E system to be established will enable the project management team to clearly demonstrate to its key stakeholders whether the project is achieving the stated goal, outcomes and outputs in accordance with the targeted timeframe.

Therefore, the M&E systems should provide the means to robustly analyse the relevant data and information in order to:

  • monitor the project outcome indicators as reflected in a Results Measurement Framework;
  • comprehensively track the implementation of the Annual Work Plan and Budget (the project inputs, activities and outputs), using mainly the set of indicators (or milestones) outlined under each component and sub-component at frequent intervals,
  • Establish a process to alert implementers and stakeholders to any problems in project implementation and provide the basis for making the necessary adjustments.
  • Outline the flow of data and information from the project sites through the various stakeholders, both for the use of the general public and to inform decision-making.

The project will be jointly monitored by MAFFS, PMU, and the donors to ensure the project is implemented as planned. An end of project evaluation will be conducted at the end of the project while a daily supervision is conducted to ensure project objectives are achieved.  Monitoring and evaluation tools will be therefore developed for data collection and reporting.

Sustainability Plan

Sustainability plans will be designed to ensure that activities will become sustainable for continuity after the completion of the project and utilization of donor funds.