A vital role for farming women

By Ilona Hanne

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Taranaki farming women are among the latest graduates of a national programme to increase profitability and productivity in the red meat sector through building farming partnerships.

Developed and delivered by the Agri-Women's Development Trust (AWDT), Understanding Your Farming Business (UYFB) empowers women to view themselves and their farming roles differently, while building their technical and communication skills.

The four-month programme is funded by the Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP), a Primary Growth Partnership programme, which coordinates sheep and beef industry and government efforts to develop, test and introduce new ideas, technology and ways of working.

Following the success of the UYFB pilot in 2014 and a national RMPP-funded rollout to 140 women last year, the programme has been extended to reach another 240 women in 14 regions this year.

"This targeted development of women in sheep and beef farming partnerships is designed to increasing profitability and strengthen the farming partnership, giving farmers more control over their futures," AWDT founder and executive director Lindy Nelson says.

"By taking a greater role in decision making, and applying new business, communication and change-making skills, these women are creating opportunities to lift farm performance in a challenging farming landscape.

Independent research by UMR Research released last month strongly correlated the business contribution of the female farming partner with the characteristics of high-performing farms.

Undertaken for the RMPP, the research involved more than 1000 sheep and beef farmers throughout New Zealand. It defined five farmer types according to their openness and resistance to change and also found that in all but one of the types, women were key to initiating and supporting on-farm change.

"There's no doubt women play a key role in farming businesses across New Zealand," Michael Smith, general manager of Red Meat Profit Partnership, says. "However, we believe that with the right practical support and learning, they can play an even greater role and ultimately improve the productivity and profitability of the red meat sector".

Independent research specific to UYFB is now underway that will provide a measure of how the programme influences on-farm behaviour with results expected in early 2017.

Participants rated the programme highly, citing relevant content, helpful tutors, networking with other women and confidence to ask questions and make contributions.

By the end of this year more than 450 sheep and beef farming women throughout New Zealand will have completed the programme.

Places are still available on Rotorua, National Park and Gisborne programmes. Further details are available at www.awdt.org.nz

- Stratford Press

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