Determinants of commercial orientation and the level of market participation by women maize farmers in Eswatini

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Dlamini, Lucinda Nosizo
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African Economic Research Consortium
With Sustainable Development Goal 5 focusing on the role of gender in sustainable development, developing countries like Eswatini are promoting the role of women in agriculture to drive their sustainable development agenda. This entails promoting women empowerment through agricultural commercialisation as it has the potential to improve women-led farming households’ income and living standards. Eswatini’s government has initiated programs such as Rural Development Areas programs to assist farmers in agricultural production, especially maize as it is the country’s main staple food. Women’s contribution to the agricultural sector has been limited by several constraints. These range from limited access to credit sources to poor infrastructure and high transaction costs which make it difficult to enter the market. In addition, development polices have been biased against addressing challenges faced by women as well as integrating them into development strategies. As such, women farmers’ access to agricultural markets and commercialisation of their maize operations market, is constrained and scanty. This study aims to highlight agricultural commercialisation activities of women farmers in Eswatini. The specific objective of the study is to identify the factors influencing participation of women farmers in the maize market. The study focused on the Highveld region where six communities, namely, Maphalaleni, Nsingweni, Endlozini, Sitseni, Kasiko and Motjane were purposively selected based on their ability to produce maize surplus. A multi-stage sampling technique was employed to select respondents which resulted in 191 farm households being surveyed. Since the study focuses more on women, the majority (131) of respondents were women farmers with the remaining being men farmers. Men participation was explored and presented as supplementary data. The Heckman two-stage procedure was used to identify the factors that influence commercialisation. In the first stage, the Probit regression model was used to identify factors that influence farmers’ decision to participate in the maize market. The factors; household size, farm size, livestock, radio, off-farm income, savings, credit, farmers’ group, extension services and fertiliser increased the probability to enter the market while age, education and ownership of a mobile-phone reduced the probability of participation. The first stage also generated the Inverse Mills Ratios used to test selectivity bias in the second stage. In the second stage, the Ordinary Least Squares model identified factors that influence the level of commercialisation. Education, household size, farm size, vehicle, off-farm income, extension services, fertiliser and commercialisation index positively influenced the level of market participation, while price had a negative influence. The negative price relationship may underscore women farmer’s risk management behaviour where they could sell less in lieu reducing the cost of purchasing maize meal at higher prices. Evidence from the study shows that women farmers in Eswatini face several market barriers when participating in commercial agriculture. This study, therefore, recommends the need for effective and efficient policies and programs to encourage and improve participation of women farmers in maize marketing. Policies should be geared towards improving rural infrastructure, prices, extension and financial services which will help overcome barriers to market participation thus improving engagement in the sector.
women farmers, commercialisation, maize, market participation, Highveld, Eswatini, two-stage procedure.