At this stage, it is appropriate to re-introduce the research question: How socio -cultural factors have impacted on the way rural female micro-entrepreneurs undertake their entrepreneurial activities in rural village markets. As stated earlier, this study was undertaken using qualitative methodology, which has enabled the researcher to develop a framework for identifying social and cultural factors in a contemporary social setting. The study used inductive methods in a socio-cultural context.
In undertaking this study, multiple approaches and data sources were used to triangulate the findings and deepen understanding of social and cultural parameters in three settings. In the following sections, the findings from this study are analysed and discussed in relation to the guiding research questions. This chapter is divided into three main sections which explain how sustainable rural livelihood framework was used in analysing the data. The sections present the analysis of data by using the five sustainable livelihood components which were discussed in 4.3.
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The sustainable rural livelihood framework analyses the data obtained by looking at different components of the framework and how they relate to each other. The framework has placed the rural female entrepreneurs at the centre of the livelihood assets component in order to show how different asset capital impacts on how these female entrepreneurs undertake their activities. The analysis also looks at how the other components have contributed or resulted into how the female entrepreneurs from different socio- cultural backgrounds undertake their activities. The decision to use this framework is also influenced by its greater explanatory power as opposed to western models. It provides a better way of managing complex issues which arose during the analysis. The framework is modified to suit the context under which the study was undertaken a well as the circumstances and priorities of the respondents. From the five components of the sustainable livelihood model, the researcher has developed a sequential description of how these livelihood components impact female entrepreneurship process in rural context.
7.1 Enabling environment for rural female entrepreneurs
In a classical sustainable livelihood theory the researcher would have been expected to start analysing the vulnerability context first. However in this study, the findings suggest that the enabling environment which constitutes the transforming structures and processes play a role in the way rural female entrepreneurs undertake their activities. The enabling environment determines how the poor rural women access livelihood assets such as human capital; social capital; physical capital; financial capital; and natural capital and the relationship between the two components.
According to DFID the enabling structures as far as the theory of sustainable livelihood is concerned are referred to as the "hardware" of the livelihood framework where as the processes as "software" of the framework. The structures in the livelihood theory are classified into public and private sectors. In a classical model, structures that are identified in the public sector include, political or legislative bodies at various levels, executive agencies, judicial bodies and parastatal or quasi- government agencies. On the other side structures in private sector include commercial enterprises and corporations, civil societies and NGOs at different levels (DFID, 1999).
In the study areas the available public enabling structures were the local government authority at village/street and ward levels. Government agencies operating in the area were TANROADS, TRA, police and primary courts. In case of private enabling structures there were a few commercial enterprises operating in the areas. For example at Kongowe there was a milling plant and a Fuel filling station, at Ruvu Darajani there was a Chinese construction Company construction and in Patandi there was a tourist hotel, Filling station. There were a number of civil society and non governmental organisations operating in the area with varying degrees of formality. The number of these societies and organisation was higher in Patandi. As a result the number of female entrepreneurs in these organisations was also higher in Patandi.
According to DFIDs Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets the transforming processes found in traditional sustainable livelihood theory include macro and sectoral policies relevant to that particular social group; legislation such as international and national agreements and contracts; institutions such as markets and financial institutions which regulate access to assets; culture of the social group in terms of societal norms ,traditions and beliefs and power relations in terms of gender, age, class and caste (DFID, 1999).
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In the study areas it was found that although Tanzania has sound policies for female entrepreneurship development, respondents were not aware of them. The respondents were also not aware of the national and international agreements concerning them as women, entrepreneurs and members of their society. In case of institutions supporting the transforming processes such as markets and financial institutions, they were found to operate in all three areas. The markets were different in terms of the organisation, permanency, type of customers they serve, and the type of business they operate.
In case of financial institutions like banks; it was found that in Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani, respondents had to go longer distances in search of bank services. In Patandi there is an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). Culturally, it was found that there was a significant difference in terms of societal norms and beliefs between Pwani and Arusha. Findings on the power relations among different social groups showed that one's position in the society was dictated by the number size of possessions and entrepreneurial achievements.
It can be argued that, when poor women have no access to organization of the state, they often have little knowledge of their rights. This is a particular problem in the remote rural areas where many important organizations, both public and private do not reach out. For example, in all cases of the study, respondents had little or no knowledge of the existence of the national women entrepreneurship organization in Tanzania or the Small and Medium Enterprises development policy. These findings suggest that the government organization is a top down kind of a structure, whereby information and policies implementation starts from the top downwards. Thus if at all there is a gap or a delay along the way, rural population, especially women become the last group to be reached.
In most rural areas the government involvement is recognized at the local government level where its operations are based on predefined interests. For example, someone can be allowed to carry out a business on a restricted premise provided she is paying to the local government, but will stand alone when required to face the law.
The few institutions that operate in the rural areas, their basic interest is not entirely to improve the lives of poor rural women but also to fulfil their predefined interests. Taking an example from a credit giving MFI, one of the conditions is whoever is applying for a loan she needs to be in a group of not less than five members. Many people believe that the motive behind this condition is not to encourage these women to work together as a team, but to ensure the easiness of getting their money back.
Cultural implications across the cases were very clear in terms of education level attained by the respondents. In Pwani region, the education level attained by the respondents ranged from no education to secondary education, while in the highlands it ranged from primary to secondary level. This may be explained by the fact that in Pwani formal education comes second to traditional or religious knowledge. For example, it not uncommon to see a girl being pulled from the school, to be secluded inside for months in order to undergo traditional rites. To them, these practices are part and parcel of the socio cultural belonging. However, the practices may do more harm for the society in terms of deprivation and marginalization of the women. The figure below shows the enabling environment components surrounding rural women entrepreneurs.
Figure 7.1 Components of Enabling Environment
Source: Extracted from DFID, 1999.
The enabling environment may have an impact on how and how much of the livelihood assets can be accessed by rural women.
7.2.2 Livelihood assets
In this section an analysis of the livelihood assets is presented. Referring to the classical livelihood framework, these assets are presented in a pentagon shape with the rural female entrepreneurs at the centre. In order for one to be successful in entrepreneurship has to posses all of these assets in varying degrees. This sub sections analyses the five livelihood assets:
In analyzing the human capital of rural female entrepreneurs, one has to look for the available entrepreneurship and business management skills, reliable and accessible source of information for entrepreneurs, knowledge, and the ability to work coupled with good health that together enables entrepreneurs to undertake different livelihood strategies and achieve their livelihood objectives. In the study it was found that most respondents, eighty percent have gone through primary education which equips them with the basic ability to make use of any of the four types of assets to some extent. Respondents who have gone through primary school were able to do many things including applying for loans because they could read and write. However, going through primary education did not warrant the ability to do "many things", entrepreneurship being one of them. Those who did not go through primary school had limitations on how many things they could do for example obtaining loans; although two respondents managed to get loans through friends. All respondents thought that achieving a certain level of education would have made their lives better. Sometimes they blamed their limited success in their entrepreneurship endeavors to lack of education, although having a basic education on its own is not sufficient for the achievements of positive livelihood outcome. Lack of education is a cultural outcome, but it tends to marginalize the entrepreneurs. They feel poorly equipped to take advantage of opportunities.
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Very few respondents have formally acquired enterprise related skills and knowledge. Only three respondents have been trained. This does not mean that all other respondents did not know what they were doing. Most respondents had acquired knowledge and skills of whatever they were doing by experience. They learned the skills from their parents or guardians through doing and observing other entrepreneurs. The overall performance of the entrepreneurs was not based on whether one has been formally trained or not. For example Elinuru from Patandi had trained in accounts and she is doing well in her business of selling dried maize wholesale. On the other hand Sophia Thomas trained in tailoring but she is performing below village average ceteris paribus.
Although it can be argued that MFIs provide business training to women before granting the loans, the fact is that many who apply for loans, they do so for non business purposes such as for school fees, building, and buying household assets. Thus, the significance of these training provided by the MFIs to poor rural women entrepreneurs becomes questionable, as they put themselves "we don't concentrate on what they teach us, what we need is money". But for few respondents who followed these trainings, they seemed to appreciate their impacts on their businesses. For example Aikaeli from Kongowe explained how the training she got from MFI has helped her to run her business and even to open a bank account. Having a bank account was observed to be rare in all settings. From the researcher's point of view, these situations seemed to be influenced by prevailing enabling environments in which these women entrepreneurs operate and live, such as information on markets, products and policies.
The most common sources of information were similar with minor variations. Most respondents said their sources of information were word of mouth which was commonly used to transfer knowledge from one entrepreneur to another. Information from the operating MFIs was another source of information as far as loans were concerned through local government offices. The local government was also used as guarantors of loans and they also dealt with conflict resolutions. Market leadership in case of Kongowe and Patandi was also an important source of information. In Patandi there were NGOs dealing with women in general but some of the respondents were also members and they could get information on a wide range of issues. There were networks which also provided information to its members. The use of mobile phones was also explained as one way of obtaining information from farmers and other traders.
The type of networks in the Kongowe market were upatu, trade organizations such as those operated by the women who run cooked food business had their local organization, and market committee. Other forms of networking existed, but these were the ones with which the respondents most identified because are commonly used by all respondents. At Ruvu Darajani the respondents had a network of lending groups which were also used for other activities like other loans, women helping each other, political activities and traditional celebrations. However, this process of networking was not uniform, for example the women who operated one side of the road had a strong informal network and they would communicate more than those from the other side of the road. In Patandi the respondents had a network which was related to the category of their business. Those selling dried maize had their own organization and those doing cooked food business had their organization. They helped each other in case of sickness or death, and they also acquire loans in the same groups.
Respondents who were not involved in taking loans or those who did not network with others seemed likely to miss the opportunities to acquire important information on their businesses or any other important information. Also those who do not spend much time in the market are likely to be left out in acquiring information like availability of loans, creating lending groups, prices and changes in produce seasonality. This sharing of information does not say, for example, whether if one individual or a group gets information on lower buying prices or better products will share the information with the rest of the group.
Another issue to be analyzed as far as human capital is concerned is the presence of local technologies which are found locally or they have been imported from nearby regions. In Kongowe, Aikaeli runs a cooked porridge business which is customarily found only in the highlands. The people of Kongowe have adapted to taking finger millet porridge and it is making good business. Asnath at Ruvu Darajani started a roast goat (barbeque) business which is popular in Maasai land and the highlands. Customers at Ruvu Darajani have become used to roasted goat meat. At Patandi the respondents who are involved in selling small grains have a local technology of cleaning the millets at the riverside and drying it there. This shows that there are local innovations which help respondents in their business undertakings.
Lastly the study wanted to know if respondents are aware of the policies, regulations and legislation supporting them. All respondents did not understand what were their rights and what are the functions and roles of the government and the private sector as far as female entrepreneurs are concerned. Respondents such as Mary, Mwajuma, Eva and Asnati said that female entrepreneurs are like orphans. Nobody is interested in their wellbeing.
In terms of natural capital all three settings had Natural resources. The resources found in these villages were very useful for people's livelihoods. Female entrepreneurs who were examined are part and parcel of the natural stock found in their societies. In this study we look into how these natural resources has impacted on the respondents livelihoods.
In terms of natural resources found in Kongowe there is ample land which is used for crop and livestock farming. In this village women have informal access to land for the purpose of production. When it comes to land rights these women have no formal, guaranteed by any local or civil rights and in particular when they are widows. Rukia is a widow she had land with her husband but when he died his relatives sold the land without consulting Rukia and gave her 300,000/= which was equivalent to £150 in 2007. She was left with her children with no land. Farmers or peasants, in particular women, practice seasonal farming. They depend on rainfall which comes twice a year. There is no irrigation. Sometimes the climate is not very conducive. The land is a main source of respondent's food: during the farming season the respondent's activities are divided between the farm and the market. Usually they farm in the morning or in the evening. Others hire laborers to cultivate the land and they involve themselves with sowing and leave weeding to the laborers. Usually fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals are not used.
At Ruvu Darajani, there is ample land with a river which is a source of drinking water and for irrigation for Kibaha and Dar es Salaam. Most of Ruvu Darajani area is swampy. Therefore it can support crop growth during dry and wet seasons. The river is also used for fishing activities. According to customs and traditions women are not allowed to fish in the river. They can only be allowed to remain just on the banks of the river to catch wandering fish for home consumption, a practice that denies women the right to utilize fully this resource.
At Patandi there is limited arable land in general terms. The available land is fertile and supports both food and cash crops. Women can work on the farm but there are not legally owners of the land. Female members of the family do not inherit land from their fathers. Patandi is endowed with water sources as there is a river and a number of streams that are used for irrigation and household uses.
The argument here is that, even if these areas are endowed with a lot of natural resources, their accessibility and utilization by women is very limited. These women are being marginalized by their own societies in such a way that have any power when it comes to decide on how these resources should be utilized. Hence these poor women become vulnerable to all sorts of assaults, abuses and the like when they attempt to seek at least a fair share from these natural resources.
Productivity of the natural resources is declining because of many reasons including climate change and deforestation. Overfishing is also practiced, with frequent use of explosives being observed. There are natural problems like floods, drought and strong winds which destroy some natural resources in both areas. When these catastrophes strike, it is the rural poor women who suffer the most.
Physical capital in this study comprises the basic infrastructure which is used for marketing activities. These influence the way in which these poor women carry out their business activities. This study tries to find out whether the available infrastructures meet the basic requirements to promote entrepreneurial activities in the rural areas and how they sustain livelihoods.
Accessibility of the three markets can be said to be good as the market areas were only few metres from the main trunk road, although ability to access market facility differs across cases. The access at Kongowe market is mainly for clients who are able to pay, those with less money are allowed to rent the pavement or otherwise operate outside the market all together. A good example, discussed earlier, is Mwajuma who used to rent a stall and when things did not go well, she had to rent a pavement of the same stall at half price. Later on when her business got better Mwajuma had an opportunity to rent another stall once more. The poorest entrepreneurs have less access to the infrastructure and the access of the market is quite informal. At Ruvu Darajani the access to the market structure it totally non formal as anyone can easily enter and exit freely. With poor market infrastructures, I can argue that women, especially who operates outside of what is called the market, are vulnerable to all sorts of hardships such as bad weather, sun, dust noises and generally difficult working conditions. .
The financial capital considered in this study is the availability of financial resources that rural female entrepreneurs use to achieve their livelihood objectives. The financial capital for these poor women comes from savings, regular inflows or from family and friends and loans from microcredit.
In Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani villages the respondents had no formal source of finance like banks. Most of the respondents acquired their startup capital from family and friends, from upatu and some had savings from previous businesses. For example Neema started her current business from savings from another business and Grace got her capital came from her husband who borrowed the same from a Savings and Credit Cooperative Society at his work. Almost all respondents were involved in upatu,as a common way of raising capital. It appears that, the absence of formal financial sources may have a negative impact on the way these poor rural women entrepreneurs operate. Most consider that a secure source of financial capital would improve their entrepreneurial activities.
At Patandi there is no formal banks; except an ATM as said earlier. There are about six MFIs operating in the areas and private individuals who give loans but at an interest rate higher than that of the MFIs. Two respondents from Patandi had bank accounts and they also had loans from MFIs. For example, Fausta is hoping to grow her business so that she will be able to take a bank loan. Elinuru has bank account and is also taking a loan from the bank. However, the presence of the formal banks and MFIs in Patandi does not discount the importance of upatu and family and /or friends as the source of the startup capital, but seems to broaden the capital source base, so increasing the chances for rural women entrepreneurs in the highland of getting reasonable financial capital to run and develop their entrepreneurial activities.
Other things being constant, a woman who is involved in entrepreneurial activities, trustworthy and a member of social groups can, if she prefers, access financial capital from these sources. However, some female may be denied access to financial capital; this may be due to lack of information, lack of any collateral, are not deemed trustworthy or lack good public relations.
The absence of the formal financial institutions, affects the way in which the respondents save their profits. Most of them indicated to save in terms of cash hiding under the bed or somewhere else and by building domestic assets. Across all cases, only four respondents indicated that they saved in the bank.
All of the respondents had at least some idea on the benefits and risks of the way in which they serve their capital. For example those who kept their money at home they were aware that their money can be stolen, destroyed by fire or vermin. Those who bought livestock were aware that animals may die or stolen or some assets may not be easily liquidated to their real values. If at all this happens, it is obvious that the intended outcomes for those particular rural woman entrepreneurs won't be realized.
The survival and performance of rural female entrepreneurs is mainly based on trust. This trust is only among the businesses but not among individuals. This means that it is common to see a micro entrepreneur taking commodities from another micro entrepreneur on credit promising only by words to pay later, but very uncommon to see a micro entrepreneur trusting a relative or someone else to run her business without some form of a binding document. A good example is Rehema from Ruvu Darajani who says they don't trust anybody to look after the business.
The lack of personal trust has a negative impact on business development and employment opportunities, as most micro entrepreneurs are very reluctant to employ others in their business for the fear of stealing from them. For those who had to employ workers, it was revealed that a constant close supervision was needed to ensure the survival of the business. To my view this acts as the barrier to business growth. The shape of the pentagon depends on how much of the assets are accessed by the rural poor female entrepreneurs. In this study it was found that among the livelihood assets, access to physical, financial and natural assets was most limiting, resulting into a skewed pentagon. Below is the pentagon showing the access to livelihood assets by the poor rural female entrepreneurs.
Figure 7.2 The asset pentagon as affected by the enabling environment
H = Human capital
S = Social capital
P = Physical capital
F = Financial capital
N = Natural capital
In analyzing vulnerability context it is important to look at the type of businesses the female entrepreneurs own and manage depending on their settings and the assets they posses. These seem to dictate the level of vulnerability, the strategy adopted and the outcomes anticipated. The female entrepreneurs in all three settings were mainly involved in food related businesses. Twenty-eight respondents were found to operate food related businesses, where thirteen operated cooked food business; of those, eleven respondents were from coastal area. The other food related businesses include selling of raw vegetables, grains and tubers. Two respondents were found to operate non food business of a hairdressing salon and tailoring.
This suggests that the respondent's prior domestic experience in preparing food influenced their choice of business. For example, because all respondents were female, most of them mothers it is expected that they are well placed to operate food related business. They may lack entrepreneurship skills but they are well versed as far as food is concerned. As poor families are likely to be vulnerable to hunger, the cooked food business may be seemed to be the choice made as another way of assuring families the daily meals. It was revealed that for those involved in cooked food business their immediate families benefit from the food either by eating the food on premise or when some food is left it is usually consumed by members of the family.
As the women carry almost all household responsibilities, the revenue from the businesses owned by the respondents was controlled by the female entrepreneurs themselves. This allowed them choices: their choice not that of their husbands, father or brother. Given that they, the women are ultimately responsible for family welfare this possibility of choosing for themselves must have welfare effects.
For the few respondents who were involved in farming they used large output for home consumption and business. A good example is Ibula from Ruvu Darajani who sells cassava and sweet potatoes from her own farm. She did not have to sell the produce to a middleman but was able to derive the full retail price of the produce for herself. Therefore, it can be argued that as women posses fewer assets, they become more vulnerable, so when production, selling and consumption are integrated they have more control of their lives and a beneficial effect on the welfare of the family for whom they are responsible.
It could even argued that this being more in control of their destiny; as an enabler, is a critical element of combining livelihood and entrepreneurial theory. It makes entrepreneurship a much better fit for the developing world. Thus, a combination of livelihood theory and entrepreneurship theory develops strong explanatory power to explain the life and practices for this marginalized group of very poor women.
Prices for different commodities were almost the same in the same market as respondents like other traders were afraid of losing customers if they charge a higher price. The prices are determined by the availability of crop produce. Whenever crops were in abundance the prices are usually low and vice versa. Other factors which affect the price are, the source of produce; the more distant the source of produce, the higher the price. A good example is for Tina who sells tomatoes. When tomatoes are brought from Ruvu Darajani they are less expensive compared when they are brought from Iringa region. For respondents who have little or no competition have an advantage on the price, but other things are to be considered. For example Sophia Thomas is the only tailor at Ruvu Darajani but the prices she is charging are very reasonable and depend on the purchasing power of her customers. So although the respondent's prices are influenced by conventional factors such as competition, they also have considerable discretion in what they offer and what they charge.
As most businesses are food related it is not easy to predict seasonal fluctuations as agricultural output is not predictable in areas without irrigation. Agriculture seasonality has a direct impact on the ability of respondents to buy more or less crop produce. A good example is the Patandi market where most respondents deal with selling grains. Therefore, as said earlier that production, selling and consumption are integrated, poor production will directly affect selling and consumption.
The prices for farm produce like, banana, vegetables, grains, fruits and tubers depend on the availability and seasonality. Respondents selling the mentioned crop products are faced with decisions on how much to buy depending on the available capital. On the other hand the price of cooked food stuffs remains unchanged with the exception of fish which is sold depending on availability. What changes in foods like rice is the portion. Sophia Sefu from Ruvu Darajani would offer bigger portion of rice when the price of uncooked rice is low. So, clearly Sophia recognizes that her customers have a relatively fixed budget for food. So she accommodates fluctuating cost prices by adapting portion sizes. Again this is control and an outcome or at least part of their entrepreneurial skills.
For respondents who were also engaged in some sort of farming, they use the output from farming for home consumption. For female entrepreneurs from Patandi where they grow banana, this crop contributes to the household food needs and also for selling in the market. For Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani the food grown is used for food and for selling. In all cases selling of food does not mean that one is self sufficient but food is sold to cater for other needs including buying food later. In other words respondents from Patandi buy less food compared to those from Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani. Therefore it can be argued that being in business has allowed them to overcome a typical but perennial problem of hunger.
For the studied female entrepreneurs mentioned the cash income to be the most limiting asset throughout the year. It is critical when children go to school or college. This will be in January and July for primary school pupils and ordinary level secondary school; April and August for advanced level secondary school and September/October for Colleges.
With the prevalence of HIV and AIDS and other health problems cash money is needed almost all the time. Respondents are faced with the task of taking care of their ailing relatives and family and most of the time they spend all the profit, the capital and also are left in debts. However, from the respondents' point of view, spending all of the profit and capital to fulfill the family responsibility is seen as an achievement. In this context, it can be argued that fulfilling a family responsibility is more important to the entrepreneur regardless of the damage caused to the business. Importantly, when the woman entrepreneur, the main earner, becomes sick, the survival of the business and the family welfare are on the verge of collapse.
Illness, which is all too prevalent (AIDS, TB and Malaria) debilitates the respondents and hence reduces their ability to work their business. But even when it is a family member who is ill, because of responsibilities the ability to run the business suffers. Thus both daily income and even capital is used to address the problem. This is a good example of vulnerability as Amarataya Sen discusses. There is no buffer, the effect is immediate.
There are other obligatory uses of cash money. For example in Kongowe where the tradition celebrations for girls and boys can only be during holidays that is usually a crucial time for parents. A good example is Eva from Ruvu Darajani who says by having her business has enabled her to be able to fulfill the traditional obligations such as initiation rites and traditional dances. In highlands where most respondents are Christians, Christmas and religious rites such as baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation are celebrations which were identified to put a lot of pressure on parents.
Female entrepreneurs as part of the social groups in their communities have limited access to appropriate financial services. At Kongowe and Ruvu Darajani there are no formal financial institutions like banks, a different case in Patandi. However, as we say in the descriptive analysis, for many, the problem is not the access to loans but rather, the ability to repay the loan. Most respondents (even those taking loans) are worried about repayment and the consequences of not paying the loans. The bureaucracy and collateral requirement of bank loans also is believed to limit respondent's ability to access finance. There are some respondents who can't read or write and are almost excluded in the financial assistance. About twenty seven respondents have no bank accounts so they do save in different ways such as under the bed, upatu and vicoba.
With starting of business most respondents have found themselves able to sustain their lives. A good example is Tina who did not have anything but she started her small business. Although she had, quite literally nothing, her micro business has been able to sustain her. Indeed she is very proud in how she has been able to replace her cardboard bed for a proper mattress. Nonetheless those respondents who have less education and no training have fewer opportunities in life and even in their businesses as far as their livelihood is concerned. Ibula who cannot read or write is limited to other opportunities, she could not even contemplate asking for a loan because she can't read or write. The economic well being of the society had an impact on the opportunities in Patandi where the weather is good and more crops can be grown more frequently there are more opportunities. Also the presence of role models may have an effect on the respondents in Patandi and it is more likely that many women are involved in entrepreneurship activities where the village market accommodates around 3500 entrepreneurs every market day. The figure below shows some of the components in the vulnerability context that mostly affect rural poor women entrepreneurs as dictated by the enabling environment and livelihood assets.
Figure 7.2: The relationship between the enabling environment, assets and level of vulnerability
7.4 Livelihood strategies and outcomes
When analyzing what poor people do to improve their livelihoods, one should not have any preconceived ideas of what they do and what are their expectations. Many of the assumptions made about the poor have never been properly tested. For example, there are assumptions that poor people live in rural areas and their main occupation is agriculture. Therefore, supporting agriculture may seem most appropriate in the rural areas without considering that agriculture is not the only occupation in the rural areas. From this study, it was revealed that due to the gradual decline in agricultural production in the rural areas; agriculture is now carried out to supplement income from other sources in order to sustain their livelihoods. In line with this argument, rural poor women adopted petty trading as the strategy to improve their livelihoods and get out of the abject poverty.
However, in undertaking this study it was not very clear to know the contribution of household income from agriculture and from business. Even the respondents themselves did not know because they put income from all sources together. There were no proper records of household consumption as respondents were interested in making sure their family gets meals and other needs. Importantly, what seems to matter for the rural poor women is to get on with living and working as it is not easy to distinguish between work and life times.
Moreover, in the coast, the micro entrepreneurs needed to spend the more time at the market place, while in the highlands they needed less time. The reason for this may be explained by the fact that, in the coast the market place is considered to be one of the socializing places so women will prefer to stay there even if they are making no money/profit. The opposite is true in the highlands where women prefer to spend as less as possible time at the market place so that they can utilize the rest of the available time in doing other economic activities. Therefore, one can conclude that in terms of productivity, time is more usefully spent in the highlands than in the coast.
There have been changes also in the roles played by different social groups in the society. For example, it has been shown that girls, who helped their mothers in business and other household chores, have themselves become micro entrepreneurs. This may serve as a role model and instrumental example for the future entrepreneurs.
Most of the respondents if not all showed investing in their children's education as the strategy for improving family's future livelihoods. The motive behind this is that when the children get better education will have good job and will do better business that in turn will help their parents. Other respondents showed their happiness for their immediate investment in terms of fixed assets such as plots, houses and farms, household assets such as TV, mobile phones, kitchen utensils, bed and mattresses and working assets such as bars, livestock and guest houses.
Therefore, having their own business has improved the choices available to the respondents. Moreover, there is some social and economic accomplishment to some micro entrepreneurs for such things like freedom to pay rent, supporting families, and starting a new business.
In many ways they have become liberated, but paradoxically at the cost of being constrained to work in the business.
The study showed that women entrepreneurs move from one place to another to take advantage of income earning opportunities on their own initiatives or decisions. Those who do that are either unmarried or divorced. That is where the customs and traditions comes in, as husbands have to make final decisions for women even if the move is beneficial to the family; a woman cannot make final decisions. Also family pressures like looking after children restrict most entrepreneurs to take advantages of income earning opportunities away from homes.
The freedom, the emancipation described above, is also constrained by their social circumstances. Only those without family are able to move around. Indeed the loss of family may even force them to move in search of a living.
When analyzing livelihood strategies for rural female entrepreneurs it may be necessary to acknowledge people, in particular poor people who compete for scarce opportunities for employment, productivity, markets and better produce prices, thus making possible for everyone to simultaneously achieve the same level of livelihood objectives or outcomes as the poor people are not homogenous and are less competitive.
In this study, some entrepreneurs revealed that have attained some of their livelihood objectives, even though their sustainability cannot be guaranteed. For example, they mentioned increased levels of self confidence, self-esteem, political representation and social inclusion, or increased income, all as a result of being entrepreneur. Others managed to take their children to school, provide food for their families, support relatives and secured appropriate shelter.
Generally, it can be deduced that for rural poor women, being an entrepreneur has resulted into increased income, improved family wellbeing, reduced vulnerability and improved food security. However, as the poor people are not homogenous their livelihood objectives are also different. This implies that the researcher cannot identify or recommend any one livelihood strategy as a preferred option to take people out of poverty. But only those entrepreneurial strategies have made some things possible.
Even though some good things have happened to rural poor women because of being enterprising, still there is a lot to do. Many women in the rural areas have little knowledge about their rights, and under presented in decision making organs. Some still have traditional mind that women were born to be poor and serve the man's empire. This calls for the deliberate efforts in addressing these issues. It should be born in mind however, that there some trade-offs in addressing these issues and livelihood objectives. While others may be benefiting from one course of action, others many suffer as a result of such actions. Thus, a balance needs to be sought in order to achieve sustainable livelihood outcomes. The figure below presents the modified livelihood model for the studied rural women entrepreneurs.
Figure 7.4: The livelihood framework for rural poor female entrepreneurs
Therefore, generally speaking, the researcher can conclude that although rural female micro-entrepreneurs undertake entrepreneurial activities in order to survive and not because they want to be entrepreneurs. This chapter has looked into the five components within the livelihood framework and their influence on the way rural female entrepreneurs go about bringing sustainability in their livelihoods.
It was revealed that enabling environment dictates the type, amount and quality of assets possessed by the rural women entrepreneurs. It was also shown that poor women with few or have no assets are more vulnerable to much of the social and economic harassments. It is within this vulnerability context where rural poor women entrepreneurs, choose the strategies in order to achieve their livelihood outcomes.