10 Mar 2017

Rural Women: not merely food producers but real agro-preneurs

Despite significant progress in the reduction of hunger and poverty, feeding the world is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. Most of the hungry people in the world live in rural areas, they are mainly small-scale and family farmers in developing countries, who rely on agriculture for their livelihood, particularly women and girls. That is why agricultural growth can be so crucial in fighting poverty and improving the living conditions of rural people.

Globally, women play a central role in the agricultural sector, engaging in a myriad of ways as producers, laborers, marketers, and entrepreneurs. This is of course, coupled with duties and responsibilities over family nutrition, child-care, and food security which are still mainly led by women.

In the achievement of global food security, the World Farmers’ Organisation WFO recognizes the pivotal role of women farmers and advocates for the empowerment of their role in agriculture.

According to FAO estimates, women are responsible for more than half of all the food produced worldwide.

This includes up to 80% of food production in African countries, 60% in Asia and between 30 and 40% in South America. Global trends have seen a recent increase in female-headed households along with female-headed farms due to a variety of factors.

Across the developing world, women are often left with the responsibility of farm management, performing all duties that pertain to a farm manager, along with family care and household maintenance. However, often due to gender bias and women’s low social standing due to the patriarchal nature of many societies, they are rarely legally or socially recognized as head of the farm. Men’s absence is most often due to either death, migration in search of additional income through urban employment or men enlisting in the army in times of conflict. Women often accept and assume the magnitude of their duties and receive a minimal amount of recognition for their contributions.

They are seldom granted land tenure rights and often have less access to vital production inputs such as: land; financial services including credit, savings, insurance; access to markets and storage; and other services and technical support, than their male counterparts and are often denied access to education and agricultural extension programmes. Many studies demonstrate when women have access to education and improve their social and economic standing, they can ably cater for their children’s education and household spending on nutrition increases. Their social and economic empowerment has impacts in many realms for example child health outcomes improve and small farms become more productive, economically viable and sustainable.

Rural women are therefore especially affected by various forms of poverty.

Poverty of time: taking care of their farm and their family gives them less time for recreation, repose and even time to work.

Poverty of work: women’s work is often less productive due to injustices of the basic accesses cited previously.

Poverty of business certainty: women often have less access than their male counterparts in formal contracts of work, property, and professional training and information.

Poverty of social networks: The quality of social and technical infrastructure makes the access to social networks more difficult for women.

Poverty of technologies: The extent to which rural women participate in technology research and development training, together with their access to new technologies are important factors that affect women’s economic empowerment.

Poverty of information: Promote the development and adaptation of information and communication technologies (rural radios, listening clubs, mobile telephony, videos, television, etc) for rural areas, in particular since they have proven effective for rural development and rural communities’ access to critical information (on financial services, inputs, processing, transportation of goods to urban and peri-urban markets, access to education and health services) which can strengthen their agricultural productivity and economic enterprises.

The work of the WFO Women’s Committee

The challenge WFO aims to address through the creation of a WFO women’s committee, representative of the world’s farmers, is to raise awareness on the value of women’s work and the need to improve their skills in order to maximize their potential as farmers and agents of change.

The committee’s work aims to improve the position of women in the agricultural value chain and, in particular, ensure equal treatment between women and men in the agricultural sector in terms of the economic, working and social conditions.

The establishment of an international committee for women farmers will encourage and foster solidarity and cooperation among women and men farmers, especially between those from developed and developing countries. The committee’s work will also focus on strengthening the capacities of women farmers through their full and active participation in farmers’ organizations, in decision-making bodies and in WFO activities

The committee aims to actively ensure the representation of women in delegations speaking for farmers at national and international level and support the effective participation of women farmers in relevant programs. It will also ensure that national and international decision-makers take into account women farmers’ needs such as access to land, credit, knowledge, technical support and market opportunities when drawing up agricultural policies.

The aim is to achieve policies that are effective and efficient in promoting the socio-economic empowerment of women farmers allowing gender-balanced   conditions   in   agriculture.   In   this   regard, the   committee   will   promote, analyze,   and disseminate among its network any relevant research that will inform the decision makers.

Speaking the same language, to empower rural women: IFAD Glossary on Gender Issues

To ensure a successful outcome of the multidimensional approach to achieving gender equality and empower rural women, professionals and policy- makers across relevant disciplines and sectors need to speak the same language.

The recent released IFAD’s first glossary of terms related to gender issues has been developed with the purpose of ensuring consistency and accuracy of terminology in 4 languages, i.e. Arabic, English, French and Spanish, and standardize the terminology used in relation to gender issues.

While there is significant overlap in the content of the multidisciplinary definitions of gender and gender-related terms, some communities of practice will feel more comfortable with one term or the other. Mutual agreement and acceptance of a common term will greatly facilitate future communication, decisions and actions.

LINK to the Glossary on Gender IFAD https://www.ifad.org/documents/10180/d6027426-91b2-48d2-bb29-0c0ebbc05f5c