IICA and UN Women team up to support marginalised farmers and agriMSEs
Institutional Partners at the launch of the IICA-UN Women MoU – (top, from left), IICA-TT Representative, Diana Francis, UN Women Multi Country Office - Caribbean Representative, Tonni Brodber and Joint Programme Coordinator, UN Trust Fund for Human Security, Angela Davis and special guests, (bottom from left) Feature Speaker - Colette Burnett, CEO Global Food Warrior, and Dr. Safeeya Mohammed, CEO SISU Global Wellness
Port of Spain, 28 June 2022 (IICA): “Micro firms should never be underestimated; everyone starts out small”. This conclusion by the European Investment Bank Group sets the context for the collaboration between UN Women and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). The UN Women-IICA Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) facilitates enhanced support for women and marginalized farmers and agri-business owners, including strengthening gender-responsive services to women and youth in agri-business across the region.
Efforts to enhance resilience and improve the prospects for recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing threats posed by climate change and natural disasters, demand that there is recognition of the role and value played by MSMEs in our economies.
In CARICOM, micro, small and medium enterprises have been described by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as the backbone of the private sector, accounting for more than 50% of regional employment and gross domestic product. They are also an important vehicle for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, through their significant impact on job creation, poverty reduction and financial inclusion, especially among women and youth. Notwithstanding their importance, they face substantial constraints, particularly those operating in agriculture and related sectors, i.e., AgriMSEs, a situation which was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN Joint Programme, funded by the UN Trust fund for Human Security and the Build Back Equal (BBE) programme funded by Global Affairs Canada, are focused contributions being led by UN Women and other UN partners (UNDP, ILO, FAO and UNFPA) to fast-track efforts for safe-guarding and strengthening the significant contributions of women-led MSMEs, by addressing gender inequality and other critical barriers to their development.
The collective experiences of IICA’s collaborations with entities such as Caribbean Export, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and COLEACP, as well as working with the private sector in CARICOM, confirm that business gaps and capacity constraints are an absolute and major limitation for AgriMSEs. Partnering with UN Women expands the opportunities and reach of IICA in the Caribbean, to benefit a wider group of AgriMSEs, particularly those that are women-owned, helping to strengthen their business capacity, improve product compliance with safety and quality standards, and ultimately, mainstream into domestic distribution network and regional and international market integration.
The IICA-UN Women MoU was officially launched at an AgriMSE Exchange on 27 June, involving a number of development agencies and agriculture stakeholders across the Caribbean and the diaspora. This platform was initiated by the IICA Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as a voice for AgriMSEs, for peer-to-peer support, business-to-business facilitation and making strategic connecting to key individuals and institutions. In speaking at the event, the IICA Representative in Trinidad and Tobago, Diana Francis, acknowledged that Caribbean AgriMSEs are operating within immense global challenges, including escalating costs of food production and food prices.
In referencing the current Caribbean private sector-led thrust to reduce extra-regional food imports by 25% by the year 2025, Ms Francis concluded that this initiative in the context of the agriculture and food insecurity crisis, offered the region “yet another opportunity to pivot, rather than panic, and to take a deep look inward, into our countries, into our agriculture, and to invest in our farmers, food processors, and in food marketing and distribution systems that are inclusive to our AgriMSEs”.
During the launch of the partnership, UN Women Multi Country Office - Caribbean Representative, Tonni Broder said: “This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which we are announcing today between UN Women and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), is a reflection of the alignment of our commitment to advance the economic empowerment of women in the Caribbean region, many of whom are represented in the MSMEs.”
Ms Brodber also added: “It is important to remember that we are not in this alone (in the work for women’s economic empowerment). We must continue to encourage work with private sector partners and policy makers to examine the agricultural sector and wider business environment for an intersectional and gender transformative lens. If we are looking at it through this lens, no one will be left behind. We will see that when we provide opportunities women and girls, men and boys benefit as well.”
The partnership with IICA, will also advance two very important outcomes of the United Nations Multi-Country Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework in the Caribbean:
- Outcome 1: More productive and competitive business ecosystem designed to improve people’s standards of living and well-being’
- Outcome 5: Caribbean people, communities and institutions have enhanced adaptive capacity for inclusive, gender responsive Disaster Risk Management and climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Among the areas for cooperation include completing assessments on the impacts of COVID-19 and gaps in economic empowerment programming for women in agri-business, supporting digital and climate change training, and rolling-out an AgriMSE mentorship programme, with a focus on women and youth.
IICA is the specialized agency for agriculture in the Inter-American system, with a mission to encourage, promote and support its 34 Member States in their efforts to achieve agricultural development and rural well-being through international technical cooperation of excellence. https://www.iica.int/en
About UN Women
UN Women is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations mandated to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women. A global champion for women and girls, UN Women was established to accelerate progress on meeting their needs worldwide, through programmes, policies and standards that uphold women’s human rights and ensure that every woman and girl lives up to her full potential. https://caribbean.unwomen.org