Youth, Women, and Market Systems Development in Agriculture

September 24, 2020


woman smiling at camera
Photo: Agrilinks

This blog was orignally posted on Agrilinks and was written by Feed the Future Advancing Women's Empowerment Activity.

Attention to inclusivity of youth and women in market systems development (MSD) is gaining traction around the world as part of work to strengthen inclusive agriculture-led growth, food security, poverty reduction, and improved employment. In recent years, at least 15 agriculture-related MSD activities valued at a combined half a billion U.S. dollars have targeted women and, increasingly, youth. Although the context for this work varies greatly, establishing the business case for youth’s and women’s inclusion has been central to these efforts. Until now, however, little has been known about the breadth of tactics, successes, and pitfalls of this emerging work.

To bridge this knowledge gap and inform further research and practice, in 2019 and 2020, the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Program undertook a groundbreaking landscape analysis and four case studies to explore the intended and unintended consequences of MSD approaches to youth’s and women’s inclusion in agriculture and supporting markets to understand more about the following:

  • What gender- and youth-specific constraints and opportunities MSD programs in agriculture and supporting markets have identified
  • Whether and how MSD approaches have been able to address gender and youth issues
  • What the impacts or outcomes of gender- and youth-targeted MSD approaches have been, including results, shortcomings, and positive and negative unintended consequences

Results reveal evidence that MSD programs can: 

  • Meaningfully include women and youth in MSD through both mainstreamed and targeted approaches;
  • Overcome constraints and pursue opportunities that foster win-win benefits for and with women, youth, the private sector and other market actors;
  • Promote at least some social norms change to close gender and age gaps within the scope or related to the specific objectives of the projects, including by pursuing non-traditional (adult male-dominated) opportunities; and
  • Involve risks that should be anticipated and addressed as power relations and markets shift with inclusive MSD trial and error.