By Erald Lamja
On March 5th, the USAID Planning and Local Government Project (PLGP), in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD), organized the National Conference “Unlocking Potential: Gender-Sensitive Value Chain Analysis to Develop Better Economic and Development Policy and Programs”.
This conference promoted Gender-Sensitive Value Chain Analysis (GSVCA) as a premier means, now tested in Albania, for unlocking the full potential of the economy by examining both the visible and invisible actors and contributions in different value chains within Albania’s varied sectors. Held within the framework of PLGP’s (Women, Peace and Security) Economic Empowerment activities, this open forum was a platform for local and central government officials, case experts, and the donor community to share their experiences and best practices.
The conference was attended by Mr. Bledi Çuçi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ms. Mikaela Meredith, USAID Country Representative, and Ms. Eglantina Gjermeni, MP, Head of Women’s Alliance of MPs.
Mrs. Grania Mackie, PLGP’s international expert on GSVCA, presented opportunities for identifying economic development and the impact this process has on women’s economic empowerment. “Illuminating the (often invisible) role of women in rural value chains is crucial to recognizing their contributions and providing a means to achieve economic growth,” said Mrs. Mackie.
A case study from PLGP’s analysis was presented by PLPG Local Economic Expert and GSCVA activity manager Mr. Erald Lamja, and examples were shared showing the effects already occurring for women in the partner municipalities and potential for scaling moving forward.
During the conference, two important documents were presented: The Handbook for Practitioners of Gender-Sensitive Value Chain Analysis and the Policy Improvement Document at Central and Local Level. These documents, in tandem with the case studies presented, provide practitioners with the tools needed to apply GSVCA across the nation.
On his opening remarks, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Bledi Çuçi recognized the important role that women play in agriculture and local economic development and the continuous support that USAID is offering to address gender inequality issues and empower women in value chains.“Empowering women in the rural sector is a must for sustainable development in agriculture. Today women make up about 55% of the labor force in agriculture and play an important role in the economic activity of the sector. Let’s not forget that many of the traditional Albanian products, what we call “Origin Products”, are mainly made by women. Even though there is an increase in the number of women applying for grants from year to year, of course we are still far from where we want to go. USAID is making a valuable contribution to the inclusion and empowerment of women in agricultural economic activities, focusing in particular on the value chain for the production of honey, traditional food, handicrafts, and especially in the cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants. In the meantime, as a ministry, besides the scoring system that favors women in grant applications, we have made a full commitment to improve the standards required by the sector, as well as the needs of vocational training of women in some agricultural sectors. Important in this process is the involvement of local government. MoARD, as an important USAID partner over the years, supports these interventions which are added values in our ongoing effort to create jobs and strengthen the value chains through the contribution of women to agricultural enterprises,” said Mr. Bledi Çuçi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.