Ireland

EU CAP Network workshop ‘Women-led innovations in agriculture and rural areas’

The EU CAP Network workshop ‘Women-led innovations in agriculture and rural areas’ will take place in Krakow, Poland from Wednesday 17 April to Thursday 18 April 2024.

Women play a vital role in civil society and economic growth in rural areas. They are at the helm of viable farm businesses, and vibrant rural areas and communities. Women are key actors in the rural economy as farmers and other entrepreneurs engaged in off-farm work in multiple sectors. Additionally, women often assume responsibility for the care and welfare of their family members. Yet, despite their crucial contribution, many women suffer from a rather ‘invisible role’, facing numerous challenges such as discrimination and difficulties in accessing the labour market. This situation is exacerbated by the prevalence of rural women participating in informal and vulnerable employment. Often, such employment is inadequately compensated and lacks connections to social protection or pension schemes, which could potentially leave women vulnerable to increased levels of poverty (OECD, 2019).

Women make up 51% of the EU population and, in 2021, 67.3% of all working age women (20-64 years) were employed in rural areas, yet the gender pay gap still stands at 12.7% (Eurostat, 2022). What’s more, in almost all Member States, the gender gap in employment rates is higher in rural areas than urban ones.

In particular, farming is viewed as a male-dominated profession, with women making up 31.6% of EU farmers (Eurostat, 2022). Additionally, women in farming face issues around access to land, training and education, and equal treatment from financial and farming organisations. To counteract this, gender mainstreaming has become an important principle in the CAP. The CAP Strategic Plans (2023-2027) promote the increased participation of women in farming and require a gender equality approach in addition to the assessment of the position of women in agriculture, forestry and rural areas, and the challenges they face.

Various projects, supported by different EU programmes show how barriers to the empowerment of women in rural areas can be mitigated or overcome, with socio-economic benefits through social and other types of innovations. Moreover, women represent a significant driving force for prosperity and social inclusion in rural areas, notably through innovative actions and entrepreneurship. This has been recognised by the European Commission in A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, which is committed to empowering women by supporting gender equality and entrepreneurship in Europe, including rural areas.

Taking into account the above, the EU CAP Network support unit for Innovation and Knowledge exchange | EIP-AGRI is organising a workshop on women-led innovations to demonstrate that farming and rural areas can be attractive places for women, especially for developing their business ideas and applying their innovative approaches.

Objectives

The overall aim of the workshop is to empower women in farming and rural areas by exchanging knowledge, identifying successful initiatives and projects led by female innovators, and networking.

Specific objectives:

  • Explore opportunities offered under different EU programmes to support women in agriculture and rural areas.
  • Showcase innovative initiatives, businesses and start-ups led by women entrepreneurs in rural areas with a particular focus on innovative farming practices and farm diversification strategies.
  • Identify the needs of and barriers to women entrepreneurs to develop their businesses in rural areas.
  • Promote women-friendly entrepreneurship ecosystems within local rural communities.
  • Activate networking among workshop participants in order to support women-driven innovation and entrepreneurship in rural areas.

The main target groups:

This workshop will focus on good practices of women-led initiatives from EU rural areas, at different stages of development. This includes, but is not limited to, farming, forestry, and environmental productions and services. Other participants that we are looking for include advisors, researchers, representatives from farmers associations, chambers of agriculture, industry, managing bodies, local authorities, press, etc. from across Europe.

GRASS CEILING Living Lab Ireland’s first meeting of female rural innovators in the Southeast

The first meeting of the Irish Living Lab took place on June 20th, at ArcLabs, Carriganore, Southeast Technological University (SETU). The Lab’s co-leads Dr Leana Reinl, School of Business, SETU and Caroline O’Keefe, Macra na Ferime, welcomed seven women innovators and other stakeholders to the event.

Lab participants are women at early and later stages of innovation and rural business experience. Their business offerings include diverse dairy-based products and services, organic chocolate, micro-greens, and rural marketing services.

Participants shared their perspectives in a series of workshops and discussions and highlighted areas of focus important to their rural innovation aspirations.

Dr Margaret Tynan, Growth Hub Project Lead, SETU Waterford Campus facilitated a workshop using ‘Lego Serious Play’ in which the women built metaphors of innovator identity, which enabled them to share stories of their experience, contexts and communities.

These reflections included examples of progressive initiatives of socio-economic value which draw on ‘the local’ through an authentic and sustainable lens. There was a strong sense of pride among those present. However, many expressed concerns that resources and support are lacking for dynamic, sustainable models of local rural development that can travel, with support often focused on large scale commercial growth.

Suggestions to support the work of rural women included greater visibility of champions and a change of language about the rural and rural women in the wider media. Shared graduate placement models and work hubs offering diverse professional skills to underpin innovation were suggested.

Dr Eugene Crehan, Director of Programmes, Centre for Enterprise Development and Regional Economy, School of Business, extended a warm invitation to the women to be part of SETU’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, briefly describing research centres, teams and projects at ArcLabs and across SETU’s campuses of value in the context of the project’s aims.

Leana explained “We heard about many impressive initiatives that are being undertaken and about others that are in the pipeline. The rural and small business resource challenges noted in the sessions are a recognised barrier to innovation, and gender specific barriers also emerged. The GRASS CEILING project will support women as agents of change in our rural communities and beyond and will run until December 2025. We are excited about the participatory methodology, training and networking approach that the project will use to support women led innovation”. The next meeting is scheduled for October 2023 in Growth Hub’s Imaginarium, SETU Waterford Campus.