Working to Give Female Farmers in Indonesia Access to Agricultural Information and Financial Services

by tuftsigl
Jul 03

Written by Student Researcher Leah Meadows, a graduate student at The Fletcher School in the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy program.


Last week, I interviewed female rice farmers in Karawang, a rural district in West Java, Indonesia, to determine their access to agricultural information, financial services, and cell phone technology. Despite their vital role in agricultural production, women in Indonesia are systematically excluded from agricultural information. During rice production, women plant seeds, weed tall grasses, manage pests, use manual tools, and sort the rice post-harvest. Formal channels of agriculture communication bypass women, however, because only men who own land are invited to village meetings about agriculture, and often times agricultural extension officers neglect female farmer groups in order to focus their efforts on male farmer groups.

During my interviews, I met Nayah, an enterprising female farmer who supplements her income by washing motorcycles. She wants to form a cooperative of female farmers to sell ground ginger in the markets, but needs the capital, skills, tools, and distribution networks to do so. Nayah, like all the women in her community, does not have a bank account, so it is difficult for her to get the start-up capital for her business.

This is why I am helping rural female farmers become entrepreneurs through my summer internship with MercyCorps’ Agri-Fin mobile project. I am working to provide rural women in Indonesia with access to technical and market information along with financial services through mobile technology. Providing access to rural advisory and financial services through mobile phones – a highly promising medium to reach millions of women in remote areas – has a high potential to improve smallholders’ productivity and stabilize their incomes.