Land, fertilizer and finance: the keys to improving rural women’s wellbeing?

July 2022

Access to productive resources—such as land, fertilizer and microfinance—may be key to improving life for rural women in sub-Saharan Africa, according to recent findings by local PEP researchers.

Rural households in sub-Saharan Africa depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods but often find themselves limited by inequitable access to land and financial resources. These constraints decrease productivity and increase unemployment, especially for women. A number of PEP research projects investigated the effects of improving access to productive resources.

Reducing gender inequalities

Women experience lower wages, less access to land, and greater vulnerability to climate shocks than men. PEP research from South Africa and Burkina Faso shows that improving access to land generally, but particularly for women, is likely to reduce gender inequalities. By creating jobs and increasing household income through land access, food security and economic growth also improve.

Another way to increase women’s inclusion in the workforce is through financing to support women’s entrepreneurship. Evidence from Benin shows that social network-based financing works well for rural women in small-scale commerce, the flexibility allowing them to increase their profits more than other types of credit. Similarly, another project from Burkina Faso found that establishing an agricultural credit guarantee fund with a 60% quota for women, combined with a financial education programme, will promote their financial inclusion and economic empowerment.


Supporting smallholders can make a big difference

Findings from Ghana and Senegal show that encouraging smallholder farmers to participate in non-farm employment can provide the financial resources needed to support their agricultural activities. The findings indicate that promoting a non-farm diversification strategy could reduce unemployment and poverty.

In the case of Senegal, when women participate in non-agricultural activities they gain economic empowerment and the benefits help the household as well as the farm with improved food security.

Another project team from Ghana found that providing fertilizer subsidies to smallholders improves their crop productivity and household welfare, but the benefits are greater still. The team’s findings suggest that the Planting for Food and Jobs fertilizer subsidy could reduce unemployment, increase GDP and allow food industry production to meet domestic demand.


These findings are from projects supported by PEP under the second Policy Analysis on Growth and Employment (PAGE II) initiative, co-funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and UK Aid.

Find out more about the projects featured:


Accessing finance for productive employment opportunities for women in rural Benin

Project page      Findings      Policy Brief      Working Paper

Burkina Faso

Politiques Agricoles, emploi et revenu des femmes au Burkina Faso

Project page      Policy Brief      Working Paper


Credit constraints, agricultural productivity and household welfare in Burkina Faso: a gender perspective

Project page      Findings      Policy Brief      Working Paper


Implications of the Fertilizer-Subsidy Programme on Income Growth, Productivity, and Employment in Ghana

Project page      Findings      Policy Brief      Working Paper


Rural Non-Farm Engagement and Agriculture Commercialization in Ghana: Complements or Competitors?

Project page      Findings      Policy Brief      Working Paper


Women’s Employment Issue in Rural Senegal: What Can We Learn About the Shift From Farm Activities to Diversification Strategies?

Project page      Findings      Policy Brief      Working Paper

South Africa

CGE analysis of rural economic development through agriculture policy in South Africa: a focus on poverty, inequality and gender

Project page      Findings      Policy Brief      Working Paper

This text was prepared with thanks to Dr. Alphonse Singbo and Mr. Jourdain Lokossou.


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