Women's economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in agriculture : a case of Mashonaland West Province in Zimbabwe.
Gender equality and women’s empowerment has been widely acknowledged as an important goal for international development, especially within the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector is a critical sector for many developing economies, particularly Zimbabwe which is agro based. Women are active players in agriculture and they make enormous contributions towards food production and income generating activities through entrepreneurship. This study combines three under researched contemporary discourses in research namely women’s economic empowerment, women entrepreneurship and agriculture. The study explores the nexus between women’s economic empowerment and entrepreneurship in agriculture in Mashonaland West province in Zimbabwe. In particular, the main aim of the study is to investigate whether economic empowerment of women through entrepreneurship in agriculture can lead to improved quality of lives for women. A mixed method approach was used to collect data from a sample of two hundred and forty eight (248) women involved in agricultural entrepreneurship. Two types of non-probability sampling techniques known as purposive and convenience sampling were used to identify the women. Data was collected in three phases. The first phase collected qualitative data using two focus groups involving fourteen (14) women entrepreneurs. The second phase used a questionnaire survey to collect quantitative data from two hundred and thirty four (234) women entrepreneurs. Data collection was wrapped up with in-depth interviews with ten (10) women who had also participated in the questionnaire survey. Content analysis was used to analyse qualitative data, while descriptive and inferential statistics such as Principal Component Analysis and ANOVA were used to analyse quantitative data. The results revealed that economic empowerment has indeed improved the lives of women and their families. The results also indicated that women are generally receiving support from the government in the form of agricultural inputs, training, agriculture equipment, with a few women receiving farming loans. The results also revealed that although the quality of women’s livelihood has improved, lack of skills in agriculture and entrepreneurship is hampering the full potential of economic empowerment among women. In addition, the study revealed that the majority of women are involved in agriculture out of necessity to provide food for their families and as a result of poverty, rather than as an entrepreneurial venture. This has serious implications on economic development and food security in Zimbabwe, bearing in mind that the economy is mainly dependent on agriculture. Therefore, policy makers should find ways of changing the mindset of Zimbabweans and encourage people, especially women and the youth to consider agriculture as a profitable business venture. In addition, more support is required to capacitate women with the necessary skills that would enable them to take agriculture entrepreneurship to a higher level that contributes significantly to the Zimbabwean economy. Future research should focus on finding ways to economically empower women in rural areas, especially in Zimbabwe where the majority of the population is living in poverty.