Supporting women-led agricultural innovations

On 09 November 2023, the latest meeting under the Agro Woman Initiative took place. The event was held at the premises of the Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IRWiR PAN). Our discussions focused on the ways of supporting the involve­ment of women in the implementation of innovations relating to the sustainability of rural areas.

During the presentation, Ruta Śpiewak, PhD, and Klaudia Kryńska from the Department of Rural Sociology discussed the assumptions of the “Supporting Women-Led Innovations in Farming and Rural Territories” (“SWIFT”) project. One of its partners is IRWiR PAN. The Institute is responsible, among others, for carrying out research on women’s participation in the implementation of innovations related to agriculture and rural areas. The aim of SWIFT is to foster the sustainable development of said areas by promoting initiatives intended to change the prevailing industrial, conventional model of agriculture and by developing alternative models. The other objectives are associated with issues such as closed-loop economy, social aspects, human rights, resilience of farms in crisis situations as well as horizontal acquisition and sharing of knowledge, including support for agricultural initiatives based on cooperation.

As part of this European project, we focus on activities which promote gender equality in the context of agriculture, in particular the availability of resources and agricultural infrastructure. The project also aims to support the efforts to broaden the network of cooperation with other women-led initiatives and covers not only agricultural areas but also rural communities.

– said Klaudia Kryńska during the presentation.

What distinguishes SWIFT is the approach to change – in this case based on social innovations rather than technological ones.

An important element of SWIFT is agroecology, which, compared to organic farming, places greater emphasis on social aspects, such as supporting policies and solutions that promote small-scale farming.

Agroecology is primarily concerned with taking care of the planet’s resources and the environment using methods known within the field of agriculture. Of course, this does not involve dismissing the achievements of science and new technologies. It simply means that our project prioritises the wider use and popularisation of existing pro-environmental solutions and the exchange of knowledge between communities.

– said Ruta Śpiewak PhD.

It is worth emphasising that according to agroecology, human relations and local communities should be of greater importance and have the decisive influence in terms of what is locally produced and sold in the stores. Such an approach contributes to increasing the accessibility of local products and opposes the unification of food production and availability which disregards local needs, culture or regional culinary traditions.

– she added.

Women-led initiatives implementing social innovations are among the key elements of the project. This aspect of SWIFT covers various research areas, in particular an analysis of the ways in which the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) responds to women’s needs. One of the expected outcomes of the project is the formulation of recommendations in regard to changing the future perspective of the CAP in such a way as to make it easier for women to conduct agriculture-related business activity. The project also addresses the issue of rural feminism, which has not been properly explored in Poland. SWIFT strives to fill this gap by thoroughly studying the issue. What is more, the Institute is currently involved in planning a meeting of agricultural organisations and groups representing women in Europe, such as the Agro Woman Initiative or the Asociación de Mujeres y Familias del Ámbito Rural (AMFAR) from Spain. Unfortunately, there are still very few such organisations in Europe, but the project aspires to bring about a change in this regard.

The meeting was also attended by:

  • Monika Stanny PhD DSc, Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development of the Polish Academy of Sciences;
  • Bożena Bochenek, Embassy of France in Poland;
  • Olaf Horbańczuk, Embassy of the Netherlands;
  • Friedemann Kraft, Embassy of Germany in Poland;
  • Lidia Trochimiak, Embassy of Germany in Poland;
  • Anna Galica, Embassy of the USA;
  • Małgorzata Bojańczyk, Association for Sustainable Agriculture & Food in Poland;
  • Karolina Tarnawska, Association for Sustainable Agriculture & Food in Poland.

Agro Woman, an initiative of the Association for Sustainable Agriculture & Food in Poland, aims to create both a platform for women to share their experiences and stories as well as a space for discussion about the role of sustainability in agriculture, innovation, management and the challenges of the future. The initiative’s substantive patron is the Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development of the Polish Academy of Sciences.