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Sustainability

Agri-employment for women

Opening up agri employment opportunities for women in rural areas

While Olam puts considerable effort into supporting women farmers, we also recognise the importance of including women in employment opportunities further down the value chain.

According to the UN’s Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report, on average 43% of the agricultural labour force of developing countries is women. It notes that ‘new jobs in high-value, export-oriented agro-industries offer much better opportunities for women than traditional agricultural work’.

One of our most significant areas of contribution for female employment is the cashew sector. Here women excel at the tricky deshelling and peeling process required by the cashew (read more about the process here). We therefore employ around 12,000 women across Africa and Asia. Of course, the more dextrous ability of the women drives our employment decision but our commitment to investing close to where the cashew is grown (where commercial factors allow), means that we have brought employment to women in areas where none previously existed. We also seek to empower those women by providing literacy classes and, where feasible, opportunities to develop into supervisors.

In 2013, we surveyed 6,000 of the women in our cashew processing units in Africa and Asia who were asked to choose the single most important reason they value their job, beyond the obvious financial benefits. 36% identified that working ‘gives me independence and choices’. 33% singled out the impact on ‘status and confidence’, while 19% felt that ‘I learn useful information to take back to my family’. Only 11% replied ‘none of these’. These findings – although only an anecdotal snapshot – strongly suggest that these jobs provide much more than just a wage packet.

Read more about how cashew processing can empower women in this article that appeared on the Huffington Post; Cashews, Co-ops and Constantine.

And also how traditional jobs for men are also open to women: Not just jobs for the boys!