Blog Empowering women with digital solutions: Leveraging the potential of the private sector for socio-technical innovation

Empowering women - Agriculture Digital Solutions-Private Sector - Socio-technical Innovation - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

The Gender Equality Initiative leverages digital solutions and private sector partnerships, such as the Lersha Platform, to bridge the gender digital divide and empower women in agriculture through tailored advisory services, market linkages, access to inputs, and finance.

By: Dessalegn M. Katema, Eileen Nchanji, Abrham Endrias

The Gender Equality Initiative (HER+) conducts innovative gender and social science research to develop actionable solutions to enhance climate resilience and the empowerment of women in Africa and Asia. As there is no one-size-fits-all solution to these challenges, HER+ identifies and models diverse scenarios for co-creation of socio-technical innovations. According to Barret et al 2022, co-creation of bundled approaches is essential to enable new technologies and practices to emerge, adapt, and be upscaled within and across diverse contexts. The co-creation of socio-technical innovation bundles requires multi-stakeholder cooperation among public and private sector organizations. 

In Ethiopia, HER+ is closely working with the Veggies for Planet and People (V4P&P) project implemented by  the World Vegetable Center and SNV (a Dutch development program) that aims to improve vegetable production, consumption and marketing. The project focuses on generating employment for women and young people while protecting the environment through regenerative agricultural practices and Vegetable Business Networks (VBNs). The VBNs, as an approach, connect individual farmers, aggregators, processors, traders, and service providers to build and strengthen trust and enable sustainable and inclusive relationships. The platforms will support their networks by providing access to information, business development services, input/output markets, and will also serve as liaisons with local governments. 

The Gender Equality Initiative is engaging local private sector partners by providing a deep understanding of the local socio-cultural and economic context, through the co-designing and implementation of gender-responsive socio-technical bundling. 

Women and the gender digital gap 

Though the digital age has created unprecedented opportunities for the empowerment of women and girls, they remain underrepresented in the creation, use and regulation of technology. While that gender digital divide has been narrowing across all regions, women remain digitally marginalized in many of the world’s poorest countries, such as Ethiopia, where increased internet access could potentially have a powerful impact. Female farmers are less likely to have access to basic digital services than men, reducing their likelihood of accessing and using digital agriculture solutions.  We are bridging the gender digital divide by bundling digital innovations as part of the socio-technical innovation bundling process, and leveraging the potential of our private sector partner Lersha. Bundled gender-sensitive socio-technical innovation solutions, leveraging digital solutions and platforms as shown below.


Socio-technical innovation bundles for vegetable farmers (infographic by Dessalegn, 2023) 


Unlocking the benefits of digital solutions for women resilience and empowerment: The Lersha Platform 

Digital solutions have the potential to empower and build resilience among women in agriculture, and leveraging the private sector for socio-technical innovation bundling (STIB) is crucial in reaching this potential. STIB combines digital technologies with social and technical innovations to address the specific challenges faced by female farmers, improving their access to information, resources, and markets.  

Lersha is a one-stop digital platform developed by the Green Agro-solution PLC where farmers can access their farming needs using technology: access farm inputs, hire mechanization services, and request dynamic agro-climate advisory, either alone or through Lersha ‘agents’. The platform combines a mobile application, a call centre, and Lersha Agents to facilitate transactions with farmers at the grassroot level. 

Lersha, as a gender-inclusive platform, plays a vital role in this context. It offers gender-responsive digital agro-climate advisory services tailored to women's needs, providing timely information on climate-smart practices while considering their diverse roles in agriculture. By catering to sub-sectors such as vegetable cultivation, livestock rearing, poultry, and dairy production, Lersha ensures that women vegetable farmers receive targeted guidance, empowering them to enhance their productivity and income. 


Digital solutions - Women resilience and empowerment - The Lersha Platform - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

Photo (Lersha) 


How does Lersha ensure that women and young people are included, supported, and benefit from the platform? 

While digital platforms are valuable, in-person engagement and traditional community groups are crucial to reach women who face barriers to digital access. Lersha recognizes this and therefore incorporates indigenous and context knowledge into its digital pathways, thus making solutions more effective and relevant for female farmers. Lersha employs a mixed-delivery approach, combining digital tools with in-person engagements and community groups to cater to female farmers with limited phone ownership and literacy skills. By offering tailored guidance and support, Lersha directly addresses the specific challenges faced by women engaged in vegetable farming. 

Beyond agro-climate advisory services, gender inclusiveness extends to market linkages, access to inputs, and finance. Lersha promotes gender equality by facilitating equitable access to markets, ensuring fair prices for female farmers, and integrating them into value chains. It also provides access to quality agricultural inputs, enhancing productivity and profitability. Tailored financial products and services empower female farmers to invest in their agricultural activities and expand their businesses. By promoting gender inclusiveness across various aspects of agriculture, Lersha contributes to socio-technical innovation bundling, empowering female farmers to thrive in the face of challenges such as climate change. It plays a crucial role in reaching their full potential, ensuring economic empowerment, and driving a full agricultural transformation. 


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