Voices of the trust

The Experiences and Challenges of Women in Agricultural Trade within the SADC Region

The policy brief summarises the Southern Africa Trust research which focused on the challenges and experiences of women in the SADC region. The research assessed the extent of gender mainstreaming within Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) regional and national policies, within the trade and agricultural sectors in the southern African region. Secondly, the level of knowledge among women traders and farmers on the relevant policies impacting their respective economic activity.


The study findings have shown that women engaging in trade and agriculture have not been able to enjoy significant benefits because of several constraints such as access to finance, markets, land, agricultural inputs; as well as lack of information on cross border trade procedures and regulations, bureaucratic processes and burdensome taxation at the border posts.  The solutions to address these challenges are articulated in national land regional policies, but women traders and farmers either have no knowledge of the policies or of participating in dialogue involving their implementation.The policy brief is structured as follows: the introduction provides an overview of why trade and agriculture are important priorities for reducing poverty and facilitating region integration. The context section summaries the purpose of the study and finally the key findings are shared including policy recommendations for policymakers in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


This study assesses the extent of gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the existing comprehensive SADC regional trade and agricultural policies, while examining the experiences and challenges that women within the sector face.


This assessment was conducted in the following ways:

·      Evaluating the ownership of land as well as the level of knowledge of agricultural policies both at regional and national levels

·      Reviewing the level of participation in policy dialogue and investigating incidents of informal cross border traders

·      Profiling women cross border traders

 The Focus of this Study

The study focused on the countries of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and made an analysis on the status of women involved in both or either agriculture and trade, as well as their level of knowledge of existing sector policies. Each of these countries are signatories to the SADC Protocol on Trade and subscribe to the Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP). The RAP was established to support effective gender mainstreaming on issues related to agriculture, food and nutrition security into the regional and national strategic policies.Essentially, RAP allows for the recognition of gender equality and empowerment as a regional priority.  


There is an increasing need to develop and collect specific data on the involvement of women in trade and agriculture within the region. Due to the absence of adequate data, effective policy making is constrained, and decision makers are presented with an inaccurate reflection of the extent of problems and challenges faced by women participating in the sectors.

Download the full study to read its key findings and policy recommendations.

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