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Co-funded by the European Union

Empowering Women through Agroforestry Value Chains in Rwanda

Empowering Women through Agroforestry Value Chains in Rwanda

In 2022, we published a blog post recounting a field study conducted in the Bugesera and Rulindo regions of Rwanda. Our ICR intervention aimed to interact with producers and stakeholders from fifteen agroforestry value chains to assess the business environment of these and gain insights to further develop them.  

Through this intervention, we partnered with Arcos Network and the Forestry Authority of Rwanda to develop, among other activities, sustainable business plans for agroforestry value chains. These encompassed tree tomatoes, rosemary, mango, passion fruit, avocado, and woodlot combined with intercropping. The business plans were designed to benefit smallholders in partnership with the Agroforestry for Livelihoods Project which actively engages with a network of 15,700 farmers and could reach 30,000 this year.

Beyond the business environment aspects of the ICR intervention, we also prioritized actions to incorporate women to the value chains and improving the conditions for them in the existing activities. Accordingly, the business plans were developed together with a gender assessment that resulted in gender strategies tailored specifically for the value chains.


Rwanda has achieved significant advancements in gender equality and inclusion. It holds the top position in the Sub-Saharan Africa regional ranking of the Global Gender Gap Index, showcasing the government’s strong commitment to addressing gender disparities. Rwanda’s Vision 2050 integrates gender issues and aims to ensure equal opportunities for women in leadership positions. Significant legal reforms, including the 1999 inheritance law and the 2003 constitution have provided equal rights to both genders, enhancing women’s representation in parliament. To ensure effective implementation of gender policies, the government has established institutions like the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, the Gender Monitoring Office, and the National Women’s Council.


The agricultural sector receives special attention by national and local authorities with gender-responsive interventions, emphasizing productivity and efficiency within domestic supply chains. Rwanda’s Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture includes gender-disaggregated indicators to address productivity and profitability gaps.

Despite significant progress at the policy level, significant challenges persist for women and girls in agroforestry value chains

Building on the field interviews and desk analysis, the gender assessment identified the following drawbacks for women and girls in the value chains assessed:

  • Gender disparities in roles and responsibilities: Traditional roles often lead to women shouldering more household tasks, while men take on physically demanding jobs. Women are primarily responsible for cooking, caring for children, and tasks related to vegetable cultivation, while men concentrate on cash income-generating activities and value-addition tasks.
  • Limited access to decision-making: Men wield more decision-making power within households, especially in financial matters. While families jointly decide on surplus income, men typically have the final say.
  • Unequal income distribution: Women frequently face economic disadvantages, with men enjoying higher incomes that can sway decision-making within the household. Women are generally poorer than men and are considered the primary contributors to the family and farm.
  • Unequal access to training: Women’s access to training is restricted by social norms, household duties, and time constraints related to child rearing. Men usually receive more training opportunities, exacerbating the knowledge and skills gap.
  • Limited land ownership and investment opportunities: Women still encounter challenges in accessing communal land for collective crop cultivation efforts. The absence of available investments and communal land restricts their ability to implement innovative techniques and improve production efficiency.
  • Lack of support and infrastructure: Women often grapple with inadequate resources, including limited access to technical innovations, agricultural inputs, and poor water availability, consuming significant time and hindering their participation in training and other activities.
  • Limited involvement in timber production: Women have minimal roles in timber production, primarily focusing on weeding, mulching, and pruning.


The interviews and analysis also provided input on advantages of certain value chains for women. For example, women are well represented in some of the fruit value chains (i.e., mango, passion fruit, avocado, tree tomato). Supporting these has the potential to further empower female farmers. Advantages of these value chains include low entry barriers for women entrepreneurs in production and harvesting, cultivation, and market activities that fit well with women’s schedules and traditional roles, potential for relatively fast and profitable income generation, and opportunities for value addition, such as processing fruits into juice.

In contrast to the fruit and vegetable value chains, the woodlot value chain focusing on native trees, combined with beekeeping and essential oil production, was dominated by men. Yet, opportunities for women exist in tree nurseries and intercropping approaches. Beekeeping and essential oil production bear opportunities for female empowerment in the timber production sector.

Figure 1: Constraints faced by women in agroforestry value chains and opportunities for action

Seizing Opportunities: Gender Strategies for Inclusive Value Chains and Market Access

Identifying Opportunities and Target Groups

  • Cultivate inclusivity and empower female producers through effective strategies:
    • Enhance market intelligence by actively involving women in meetings to ensure a robust female presence in investment opportunities, especially those related to subsistence production.
    • Implement quotas for female participation and extend specific invitations to all household members to foster diverse representation.
    • Grant equal chances for young farmers to succeed, and monitor progress through gender and age-disaggregated data collection to ensure effective implementation and equal opportunities for women, men, and youth.
  • Strengthen communities by forming tailored groups for women’s interests, providing a secure environment for them to voice their thoughts, share experiences, and participate in decision-making. Incorporate successful female model farmers to encourage mentorship and knowledge exchange, motivating and empowering others.
  • Actively promote and empower female producers in fruit value chains through gender quotas for pilot projects and focused training initiatives. To access male-centric value chains like woodlot and beekeeping, provide targeted support for women, including awareness raising, capacity building, financial assistance, land allocation, processing facilities, and marketing connections.
  • Develop value chains where women have a strong presence to boost their opportunities, while maintaining a balance with activities supporting men’s sectors. The ongoing pilots resulting from the ICR intervention incorporate value tree tomato (dominated by women) and rosemary (presenting opportunities for them).


Enhancing Agricultural Practices and Gender Inclusivity

  • Promote gender inclusivity in training programs through various strategies, targeting both genders, including female-headed households, wives in male-headed households, and young women. Consider convenient timing and location options for all participants, with the possibility of gender or age-specific meetings if needed.
  • Highlight the importance of successful female and young farmers to empower others. Beyond quotas, provide targeted support such as additional training and peer networks for identified women and young farmers. Emphasize practical experience through mentorship and coaching to hone the skills of young farmers.
  • Address time and mobility constraints by providing childcare during training sessions or scheduling them during school hours. Prior consultation with female farmers about suitable times and locations ensures active participation and input, fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for practical training.
  • Explore Integrated Pest Management (IPM) with a gender-sensitive approach, recognizing that female farmers, often interested in sustainable practices, make ideal candidates for IPM training. Promote Bokashi bio-fertilizer among women to encourage its successful adoption, enhancing crop yields and reducing reliance on conventional inputs, empowering women while supporting sustainability.
  • Utilize the Gender Toolkit developed by IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) as a valuable resource for examining gender dynamics in small-scale irrigation adoption. This toolkit is helpful in identifying barriers and opportunities for both genders, with a particular focus on women’s needs. Address various challenges women face in adopting irrigation solutions, emphasizing the importance of involving women in decision-making processes and providing them access to information, resources, and technical skills.


Facilitating Market Access and Empowerment

  • Foster the creation of producer groups or cooperatives to dismantle barriers for women, ensuring their equal participation and benefits from coordination efforts with larger processors.
  • Provide specialized training to women to enhance their negotiation and leadership skills within mixed farmer groups. This empowerment initiative aims to enable them to fully leverage introduced quotas, thereby boosting their influence and opportunities.
  • In pursuit of obtaining certification for accessing international markets, ARCOS is advised to consider gender aspects and the promotion of young producers as critical factors when selecting an appropriate certification standard. Assess the standards based on their requirements concerning gender and youth.


This publication is part of an intervention supported by the Investment Climate Reform (ICR) Facility. The ICR Facility is co-funded by the European Union (EU), the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the British Council. The ICR Facility is implemented by GIZ, the British Council, Expertise France, and SNV. This specific intervention is led by Mr. Milo Stevanovich on behalf of GIZ. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the donors or the implementing partners.

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