Increasing Access to Markets for Rural Women Through e-Commerce
This post originally appeared on Agrilinks and was authored by Resy Vermeltfoort.
Many cooperatives and agri-businesses in rural areas still struggle to access high-value markets in Vietnam. They rely heavily on local traders and have little brand recognition. Under the Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises (FLOW/EOWE) programme, the Centre for Industry and Trade (COIT) in Ninh Thuan province is implementing a strategy to facilitate access for rural women entrepreneurs to high-value markets and strengthen linkages between different actors in selected agricultural value chains.
One of the key aspects of their strategy is to introduce the opportunities of e-commerce to rural cooperatives and agri-businesses and women-led enterprises. E-commerce is gaining popularity in many sectors in Vietnam; however, in the agricultural sector, especially in rural areas, it is still relatively unknown. The first e-commerce training under the FLOW/EOWE programme was organized in June 2018 for 36 participants — 19 women and 17 men — from cooperatives and agribusinesses that focus on manufacturing, processing or trading of three key selected commodities: grape, asparagus, and rice. The aim of the training was to introduce cooperatives and agri-businesses to different e-commerce and selling platforms and to guide the participants to set up and design online stores to sell their products directly to traders, resellers, and consumers.
By selling agricultural products through online sales channels, like Lazada and Shopee, producers can reach a huge customer base and save business transaction costs. "I never thought that the creation and operation of an online store would be so simple," says a female participant from Xuan Hai Grape Cooperative. “After following the step-by-step instructions of the trainer on how to create my own online store, I feel very happy, and I see a lot of opportunities." For women in agri-businesses, who are usually more active in production activities and less active in the market, the acquired knowledge and skills for online multiple-channel sales opens up opportunities to access markets, establish network connections and connect with customers quickly and conveniently.
Market Opportunities Newsletter
The ability of farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs to negotiate fair prices for products and services largely depends on their access to up-to-date market information. Therefore, in addition to providing e-commerce training, COIT is developing a Market Opportunities Newsletter, which will be distributed in hard copy format to rural farmers, cooperatives, enterprises and public actors in Ninh Thuan province and will be available online for a wider audience. With the newsletter, COIT aims to provide up-to-date market information to empower farmers to increase their productivity, confidence and bargaining power in agricultural value chains. For cooperatives and enterprises, the newsletter provides useful information on new potential suppliers and production areas, allowing them to expand their purchasing area. In addition to market-related information, the newsletter is also used to share messages and information on the role of women in economic development and gender equality policies to local audiences.
In 2018, COIT is planning to develop five newsletters which will be disseminated to over 3,000 farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs in two districts in Ninh Thuan province.