10th June 2021

Can defining security help business to know what workers in their supply chains need?


A research study in 2020 explored what security means to African women farmers working at the bottom of the supply chain for an international company.  Some interesting and critical findings came about through the Focus Group Discussions, being asked questions directly around what mattered to them elicited excitement.  By interpreting their answers and narratives in context of their everyday lives allowed for a deeper understanding of these women’s needs.

The findings of the research led to three main priority issues for the women; children, farming and income.  The women mentioned that their children and family were more than any other factor, with education being a priority as it would prevent their children from turning to crime.  Sending their children to school gave them great hope in the futures they might lead.

The women are happy with farming but have deep concerns about the trees drying and dying due to weather effects caused by climate change, stressing how vital water is to their security so they can carry out irrigation during droughts.  There were a number of changes they wished for such as access to  information on market prices and an increase to the buying price of their crops.

Being paid digitally is seen to be a form of financial security as the payment is sent directly to their mobiles in regular six monthly payments after the harvest.   The women said if they were to get money each week this would lead to better health and less stress and diseases from the pressure.  Unfortunately they believe they still have a long way to go to get to a point where they feel financially secure, they often have to borrow money if they need to take their child to a hospital or to buy food and other goods between harvests.  Due to the disruptions of Covid-19 they are now under more financial pressure.

These women came across as being proud and intelligent, asking for help with farming and are hopeful about the opportunities growing and selling crops will bring to them and their families.  All the women cited the desire to have nice homes to invite visitors to, they are aspirational for themselves and their children and hope that farming will allow them increased financial security to bring these aspirations about. When it came to happiness, health and wellness were cited as being the most important things particularly since they carry burden of caring for the children.