Almost half of the world’s farmers are women. Despite their active role, most women managing the farm face obstacles like lack of education, biased land ownership and lack of finances to help them adopt sustainable agriculture practices. Agricultural experts argue that women's agricultural productivity can increase by at least 20% if they receive resources necessary for successful small scale farming. Intensive agricultural education and access to agricultural resources are some of the ways we can empower women in agriculture.
Just like any business, agricultural entrepreneurs need financial support to start a farming project. Grants are one of the ways that beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers can finance their project. In this article, we discuss some of the grants available for female entrepreneurs and beginning farmers.
ACDI/VOCA is a not-for-profit organization that promotes economic growth by supporting women in the agricultural sector helping them to solicit and negotiate for grants. The organization works in the United States and 146 other countries where they help women adopt climate-friendly farming, strategic marketing and collaborating with institutions to foster agricultural development.
Unlike most organizations which empower women on sustainable agricultural practices, Value- Added Grants program empowers women on processing and marketing activities that increase the market value of agricultural products. Some of the activities include the development of new products and good marketing practices targeted at potential buyers.
Value-added Producer Program gives priority to beginning farmers, economically disadvantaged farmers, and those with a family farm project. Grants are opened once a year. Successful applicants receive a grant plus business and marketing plan that helps to attract more customers to the product.
Small and Mid-Sized farm grants are provided by the USDA. The grant focuses on Small and medium scale farmers with new agricultural ideas that center on select farm products. The grant is open to beginners and female farmers who are already farming.
Besides the financial help, farmers are empowered on using natural resources to improve agricultural productivity, educated on management practices that increase productivity, innovative marketing skills amongst other skills that promote sustainable farming.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grants provide grants ranging from $10,000- $200,000. The grants are open to starting and already established female farmers. Primarily, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grants support agricultural demonstrations, agricultural research, and marketing programs.
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Grants program funds 8-12 projects given depending on regions.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher program provides grants to support agricultural production, produce marketing, and land development projects. 25% of the grant aims at financing disadvantaged farmers by providing them with the limited agricultural resources. The program also provides training that aims at uplifting the living standards of laborers who want to start farming projects.
Besides the grant, the program provides education to farmers who wish to start farming or ranching. The education helps the farmers to adopt sustainable agriculture practices that are profitable and productive. This helps the farming community to stay abreast with matters related to sustainable production methods. The maximum amount granted is $250,000.
USDA Rural development grants are given to people who want to develop housing facilities for farm laborers. The grants are open to non-profit organizations, individuals, associations and government offices.
The USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program gives grants to farmers who wish to start organic farming and those whose farming projects focus on organic agricultural practices. Organic farmers who qualify for the grant receive a maximum of $20,000 a year. Farmers who need more money can apply for the six-year grant of $80,000.
Apart from the grants provided by USDA, some states also offer specialized grants to farmers. For instance, the state of Texas runs the Young Farmer Grant Program where young farmers between 18yrs and 46yrs can apply for a grant to help them keep livestock. Successful applicants for the Texas program receive grants ranging from $5000 - $10,000.
If lack of funds is what has kept your agricultural projects lagging behind, then you should consider applying for a grant to finance your project. You can receive grants from the U.S Department of Agriculture or from not-for-profit organizations which empower women economically.