Business models to benefit women and men farmers: LINK methodology with gender lens


by Tatiana Gumucio | July 8, 2016

This story by Tatiana Gumucio originally written for the CIAT blog tells about how adding a specific gender lens to the already proven LINK methodology (set of tools for developing inclusive business models) can help promote business environment that better serves both men and women smallholder farmers. The pilot testing of the updated LINK was carried out with vegetable and cocoa producer organizations in Honduras and Nicaragua, and the case studies are summarized below. 

Thanks to a project by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets, the CIAT Linking Farmers to Markets and Gender research groups are working to improve the gender responsiveness and transformative potential of its tools for developing inclusive business models, the LINK methodology. Tools are being enhanced such that users will be better able to identify barriers and opportunities for men’s and women’s: meaningful participation in producer organizations; use of adequate mechanisms to access market information; participation in decision-making processes; and equal access to capacity building, capital, and other financial services. In this way, the updated version of LINK will seek to ensure that men and women are able to equitably access and benefit from value chain opportunities.

A test version was piloted through partner VECO Mesoamerica (VECOMA) in four cases in Honduras and Nicaragua, with support from FAO. CIAT is currently analyzing feedback. However, initial results suggest that the adapted tools allow gender concerns to be brought to light as had not been possible before. For example, thanks to the new tools, users in all four cases disaggregate participation in value chain nodes by gender. They also take note of leadership positions held by men and women in the business model. This allows to identify where men’s and women’s participation is concentrated in value chains, and can begin to suggest how accessible leadership positions are to women. Users of the adapted LINK tools have also made efforts to address gender equity concerns in their action plans.

The piloting was carried out with vegetable and cocoa producer organizations in the two countries. Below are highlights, by case study.

Honduras – Consorcio Agrocomercial

Consorcio Agrocomercial, a consortium of vegetable producer organizations in Honduras, reported that 7.98% and 4.52% of members participating in production activities are women and youth, respectively. At the supply node, 55.56% of its operators at supply centers are women. A gender observation at the post-harvest level was that women tend to confront product rejection problems due to the fact that they tend to cultivate vegetables that require less investment, like cauliflower and broccoli, but that are more prone to be affected by plagues and diseases, reducing their quality. In general, the Consorcio recognized the need to incorporate women and youth more significantly in the business model. For example, there is minimal representation of women on the board of directors.

LINK gender Gumucio July 2016

Honduras – Aprosacao

Also in Honduras, the cocoa producer organization Aprosacao found that women were particularly involved in harvest and post-harvest activities. However, the majority of women’s contributions tend to be non-remunerated, since these activities tend to take place on the farms of their husbands or fathers. Less than 15% of the producers who receive payment for sales or any type of service in the value chain are women.

Aprosacao recognized that up until then, no mechanisms had existed to encourage women’s participation in value chain activities and in the general business model. To address these gaps, the organization incorporated indicators and activities in their plan of next steps that take into account women’s barriers to entry, for example: monitoring of access to services like loans; and development of a sex-disaggregated mapping system.


Photo credit: VECOMA

Nicaragua – COPRAHOR

In Nicaragua, the vegetable producer organization COPRAHOR observed that women were more concentrated in processing work, rather than in production node activities. Up until then, support services to facilitate women’s increased participation in value chain activities had not existed, but the organization’s recently developed gender policy could serve to correct this. COPRAHOR notes areas in which it has been attending to gender concerns, for example: that innovation processes have reflected men’s and women’s interests and necessities; also, that there exist equal opportunities for men and women to lead collaborative processes with buyers. Nonetheless, in its plan of next steps, COPRAHOR includes actions to incorporate women better in the business model, for instance by socializing the new gender policy and channeling financial resources for women’s business initiatives.

Nicaragua – La Campesina

Cocoa producer organization La Campesina, in Nicaragua, noted with regards to its business model that there tended to be more gender equitable representation of women and men among employees in the post-harvest node. While women’s participation in the organization’s directive board was low, men and women were seen to participate more equitably as technicians.


Photo credit: VECOMA

Next steps

Across the four case studies it was seen that few women hold managerial positions in comparison to men, and their participation levels in trainings are low. There also tends to be a lack of concrete mechanisms to include women in the business models. However, the producer organizations included in the pilot demonstrate interest in addressing these challenges in order to strengthen business model development.

Now, after the testing of the tools in the four Honduran and Nicaraguan cases, CIAT’s next steps will be to incorporate gender considerations more concretely into the tools – in order to help users bring to light the most complete, relevant information on gender equity concerns and develop solutions to address them.

Tatiana Gumucio is a Gender Postdoctoral Fellow in the Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) Research Area at CIAT in Cali, Colombia. She is also the CIAT Gender Focal Point for the CGIAR Research Program in Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

Featured image (top): used in the original post by CIAT.