Empowering Females To Enhance The Sustainability Of European Food Systems
At an online event on Wednesday, 1 February, entrepreneurs and academics from Ireland, Turkey and Greece exchanged experiences on challenges and solutions to female entrepreneurship. The focus was on female participation in short food supply chains (SFSC). Such chains are seen as having a role in enhancing the sustainability of our food system as well as supporting rural development. The event, hosted by Teagasc and Munster Technological University (MTU) as an AgroBRIDGES project event, was entitled ‘Empowering female SFSC producers in Ireland and Europe’.
Drawing on findings of a pan-European consumer within the agroBRIDGES project, Professor Maeve Henchion, Teagasc, highlighted that while support of farmers and the local economy was one of the motivations for consumers to buy food from Short Food Supply Chains, producers also had their own challenges in being able to meet consumer demands. She drew attention to the additional challenges faced by female entrepreneurs such access to finance, social expectations and cultural barriers.
During the event, Begüm Mutuş from Sabri Ülker Foundation explained how female farmers in Turkey are being supported to run profitable businesses. “Cooperatives can enhance women’s opportunities,” she said, adding that research had found that the number of women in leadership positions in cooperatives was higher than in other organisational forms. She noted that despite belonging to networks such as women’s cooperatives, female producers in Turkey still had challenges with access to credit. She also highlighted the role of contract farming in enabling female participation, outlining such a programme in Turkey, and emphasised that such programmes are “impact programmes” building business value, i.e. they make business sense.
Ailbhe Gerrard, owner of Brookfield Farm in Ireland, shared similar thoughts on access to finance, noting that not only was financing an issue, there was the added challenge of being taken seriously as a female business owner. Ailbhe said that she made a strategic decision many years ago to apply for awards to enhance her credibility. She has been the recipient of many awards since then, including a Nuffield Agricultural Scholarship. These opened her eyes to many experiences and opportunities also.
Anne Marie Feighery, who owns Feighery’s Farm Beetroot Juice in County Offaly, cited product pricing as a difficult point for her business, noting that consumers have to pay 23% VAT on healthy drinks as well as sugary drinks. She found that her business was very well complemented and supported by the activities of her father and brothers in related businesses.
The event was an opportunity to introduce the agroBRIDGES toolbox, which consists of an array of communication materials, IT type tools and event organisation tools for producers and consumers. Teagasc assisted developing the Yes You Can! tool which includes a video – a collection of 12 success cases of Short Food Supply Chains around Europe to inspire and motivate producers.