Taking Livestock Interventions in Zimbabwe to the Next Level
Kay Ncube is a social inclusion expert. As Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Officer for the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development (FTFZ-LD) program, she has played a crucial role in driving positive disruptive change to the livestock industry in Zimbabwe.
Kay started with Fintrac in 2015, focusing her expertise on improving 5,452 Zimbabwean female farmers’ position in the livestock industry and, more broadly, in society. She leads a number of activities geared toward these farmers: trainings in productivity, business skills, and leadership that boost incomes; access to finance and markets so they can grow their productive assets; and adoption of technologies to accelerate their earnings. Concurrently, Kay facilitates community engagement with male farmers, stakeholders, and leaders to disseminate gender messaging and promote behavior change.
FTFZ-LD isn’t Kay’s first time working with women and youth; she has more than a decade of experience work to expand social inclusion into Zimbabwe’s development. To understand her success in social inclusion towards a more diverse and effective livestock industry, it’s important to understand the path she took to get there.
The Beginnings of a Career in Social Inclusion
As an undergraduate student studying HIV and Community Development/Management, Kay focused her research on access to and utilization of HIV/AIDS treatment for elderly women. She found that there were a lot of misconceptions about elderly people being HIV positive. These misconceptions motivated Kay to advocate on behalf of older women, which led to the local government structuring specific HIV/AIDs detection and treatment for elderly women, ensuring their voices would be heard in conversation on HIV/AIDs treatment in Zimbabwe.
Then, as a Master’s candidate, Kay focused on reproductive health for people living with disabilities, and found that there were a lot of cultural norms and traditions in the way in which Zimbabweans perceive disability. She was determined to dedicate her career to making a positive change away from these negative perceptions. Soon after, Kay served as a volunteer role at United Nations Women where she began to understand the inherent challenges women face in Zimbabwe. She says, “There are just so many disparities when it comes to women. Women are not treated fairly; women don’t get as much as men.” This inspired her to focus her career on gender and social inclusion, “Women in rural areas work so hard and for so little with very little benefit. It really inspired me to…assist at whatever level that I can.”
After her experience at the UN, Kay kept her focus on women’s rights as a provincial coordinator for the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) – the coordinating body for all women’s organizations in the country. At WCoZ, Kay worked with women’s groups and activists in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West province. However, in addition to coordinating activities and helping women’s groups in Mashonaland secure funding, Kay took her advocacy national. She began advocating on behalf of women throughout Zimbabwe. “We participated in terms of designing the new constitution that we have now. Before, it had a lot of gaps in terms of women’s rights and youth rights, and people living with disabilities.” Kay and the WCoZ engaged with policymakers to ensure clauses on women’s rights were included in the constitution that was finalized in 2013. “It is now a beautiful document,” she said. It was also a big win for social inclusion at the national level.
While government policies now provide women in Zimbabwe with a more promising future, there’s still a lot of work to be done. When asked whether she has seen a shift in behavior since beginning in this field, Kay explained that while people are now having conversations about gender inclusion, it is still “a bit decorative.” Although a quota system was introduced in 2013, and 33 percent of seats in Parliament are now held by women, Kay thinks more action needs to be taken to get to a point where women are meaningfully involved and consulted in decision making. “I believe more women in Zimbabwe really need training in terms of knowing – and demanding -- their rights,” she said.
Translating Wins for Women to the Livestock Industry
Out of all of her experiences working in social inclusion, Kay has seen the biggest shift in thinking and behavior through her work at Fintrac.
“The livestock industry is a male domain in Zimbabwe. Men make the decisions and they are the ones that succeed in terms of incomes or gains. But my work at Fintrac is exciting because we are working with [female] lead farmers and women’s groups, training them in negotiating skills and confidence building. Now they are in a position to challenge the status quo.”
Kay’s approach to behavior change around gender norms is to encourage women new to the industry to first work in groups. This helps them build a shared understanding and provides a supportive environment for them from the get-go. Once they are confident in their roles, the women are encouraged to explore opportunities to expand and boost their incomes on their own. Most recently, Kay has been encouraging entrepreneurial female farmers to begin aggregating milk produced by their neighbors, to be sold for a higher price into both informal and formal markets.
Another important aspect of Kay’s approach is to engage with male beneficiaries, stakeholders, and community leaders to raise awareness and promote women’s leadership within the beef and dairy value chains. “I think what has really worked is engagement with the men, because in Zimbabwe you have to work with the men if you want any meaningful change to happen. One of our targets is to have women occupying leadership positions. When we started, we had a baseline of 36 percent women. Now we are at 53 percent. I am very proud of that.”
Social Inclusion Must Include Youth, Too
In a country where nearly 62 percent of the population is younger than 25 years old, Kay sees much work still to be done to integrate unemployed youth. To deter migration outside of Zimbabwe, Kay believes the youth need to be shown how they can meaningfully benefit from the economy. Through FTFZ-LD, Kay encourages youth beneficiaries to get involved as primary producers, transporters, aggregators of produce, animal health service providers, and employees in agricultural enterprises. A total of 2,337 youth have been reached by the program to date, and Kay sees great potential in the work that youthful organizations are doing in the country.
What’s Next for Kay?
It’s obvious that Kay is dedicated to what she does. When asked what she would do if she could have any other job in the world, her response shows her commitment: “I love my work!” And after a decade of work in social inclusion, Kay’s biggest takeaway points the way forward for how to create positive change for some of the world’s most vulnerable: “Gender work and youth inclusion is all about advocacy…and raising awareness, changing minds, making people see the benefits of working together...this is what has carried me through my career.”
Social inclusion is an important component for any program seeking to create beneficial social change. With Kay’s support, FTFZ-LD is on track to exceed inclusion targets in Zimbabwe’s livestock industry by June 2020.
It’s KNOWvember at Fintrac, when staff around the world convene virtually to reflect on our knowledge - how we produce it and use it - for stronger agricultural development results. This post is part of that initiative and was written to feature livestock.