Empowering women farmers: “Our AB InBev farmers are no different than my family. I'm here to help them do even better.”

Posted: March 08, 2021
Empowering women farmers: “Our AB InBev farmers are no different than my family. I'm here to help them do even better.”

Every day AB InBev is empowering women throughout our value chain. In honor of International Women's Day this week, we are proudly sharing some of the inspiring ways we're creating a better, more equal world - in the field, behind the wheel and at our favorite neighborhood stores.

Nyemba Kombe feels at home in the farm fields of Zambia. Her family grew maize, groundnuts and cassava, and she remembers vividly what it's like to battle weather and work with limited resources to have a successful harvest. It's one of the reasons she became a sustainability agriculture officer for AB InBev which brews beers like Eagle Lager using cassava and other locally grown ingredients.

“My parents and grandparents made a decent living and partly funded my education with the fruits of their labor.” she says. “Our AB InBev farmers are no different than my family. I'm here to help them do even better.”

Removing barriers, making digital connections

Nyemba provides farmers with support and training on agricultural practices and digital tools to improve their crops, modernize their operations and make their farms more profitable. She says the agricultural program is always evolving to meet the needs of farmers, including many women. Of the 900 cassava farms served by Nyemba and her team in the Luapula Province, nearly 30% are women-led.

AB InBev Sustainability Agriculture Officer Nyemba Kombe (right), who grew up in a Zambian farming family, is helping more women earn a living running their own farms. (Photo: February 2019)

"Historically farms in Zambia are dominated by men. Women have lagged behind in farming because they do not have a voice or access to the same opportunities,” says Nyemba. “What we're doing at AB InBev is supporting and encouraging more women to take an active role in their farms, which is something that's very important to me.”

Like many rural areas, farmers in Zambia may not own mobile phones and have limited network access. Business is often conducted in cash, which poses a safety risk, especially for women. Along with our partner BanQu, a blockchain enabled platform, as well as local mobile network providers, AB InBev is working to increase phone ownership and improve networks so more farmers can access digital services, like BanQu and mobile money. The blockchain-enabled platform allows farmers to conduct secure, cashless financial transactions and record their purchasing and sales data. This helps create a digital financial identity for farmers so they have greater access to financial services like credit to grow their businesses.

Changing the course of people's lives

Agnes Mpundu is a 53 year-old Zambian cassava farmer and mother of 13, who lives in Momanse, an area that had a limited market for cassava until recently. Working together with Nyemba and AB InBev, Agnes has significantly expanded her farm, going from selling 3,800 kgs of cassava to more than 12,000 kgs in one year.

Working with AB InBev agricultural programs, Zambian farmer Agnes Mpundo has added more land to expand her operations, upgraded her home to solar power and funded schooling for her children.

“The increase in sales made it possible for her to improve her home, purchase a mobile phone, fund schooling for her children, and purchase a solar and battery system to power the television, radio and lighting in her home,” says Nyemba. “Agnes also invested in more land in a nearby town to expand her business even more.”

To assess how our agricultural programs can incorporate more initiatives that help promote gender equality, AB InBev worked with CARE in 2019 to examine our programs in Uganda and India where we learned that women were often performing agricultural tasks, however did not always have access to training that could help improve techniques and drive productivity and quality gains. We found adjustments were needed to address local cultural norms, like a woman's ability to travel for trainings or with whom she can interact outside her immediate family. Hosting our trainings closer to farmers' villages and hiring more women project leaders, like Nyemba, are some of the ways we can ensure that women farmers receive the same access to information and resources.

“I'm glad to support our women farmers who I hope see me as one of them - someone whose life began in the fields and has grown into a career with a great future,” Nyemba says.

See how else we're helping farmers become skilled, connected and financially empowered in our 2020 Environment, Sustainability and Governance Report.

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