Farmers can feed the world and reduce poverty, but there’s a significant gender gap, between women farmers and the resources that could empower them to do so. Even if many say that farming has a female face, often, the women after that face remain invisible
People all over the world wonder why it is so difficult to attract young generations to agriculture, especially in rural economies. The reasons warry from one region to the other. However, one common trend prevails in the agricultural sector in many countries. That’s a gender productivity trap.
What does this mean?
Women's participation in agriculture processes and rural economies in some countries goes up to 80 percent. But is it meaningful? In countless cases, the answer is simply no. Statistics and research confirm that women in agriculture face huge productivity constraints, even though they make an essential resource in the sector.
For example, women tend to carry a higher labor burden compared to men. Still, this is not reflected in their right to land ownership and agricultural leadership. Consequently, the contribution of women in rural agriculture and farming remains unseen as they find it difficult to integrate into profitable value chains.
Gender constraints in agriculture
Data from several countries confirm that if a man and a woman would each plow a field, the woman farmer would receive only a fraction of the assets (land rights, human capital) inputs, (financial credit, seeds, fertilizers, equipment, labor), and service (training, information) compared to the man. Due to all the above-mentioned factors, the woman farmer would get lower crop yields and earnings compared to the man farmer.
In a nutshell, gender-specific barriers not only prevent women from unlocking their full potential as farmers, but also slow down progress towards food security, improved wellbeing, and education and healthcare in rural communities and developing countries.
Compared to men, women farmers carry a double workload. Firstly they have to deal with unpaid domestic work. Simple tasks such as food preparation and caregiving can be strenuous and time-consuming in communities that lack access to basic services such as electricity, water and sanitation, road connectivity, transport, and healthcare facilities.
Such tiresome conditions affect the productivity of women working in agriculture. Further on, they have to split their time between domestic and farming tasks. Thus they get overworked and have no time for leisure activities.
All this may sound like the normal way of living in many parts of the world. However, normality doesn’t mean that’s the best way, especially when society suffers because of it.
How to help reduce the gender gap in agriculture
Increased access to land rights and finance
Denying women the right to own land results in denying an entire society the right to a safer and better life. Still, women farmers lack equal rights to land in more than 90 countries. Social norms, weak implementation of laws, and political will are among the key barriers between women and their right to own land. By providing women with more access to land and economic resources it would be easier to address the gender gap.
The second problem related to land rights is access to finance. Women that don’t own land find it difficult to get credit from banks for inputs and labor. Thus microfinance organizations and institutions focused on supporting women and small farmers in rural areas have a key role in helping to address gender issues.
Reduced household workload
Methods and practices that would reduce the household workload for women farmers include solutions related to water and firewood collection, cooking, food preparation, transport, and caregiving for children, the elderly, or other family members. Any solution that would provide safer access to these and other commodities and services would benefit women significantly.
For example, women walk long distances to collect water, sometimes from unsafe sources. In such cases, even public taps would be helpful.
Linking women farmers to value chains
Same as will access to financial services, women farmers often lack access to markets where they can sell their products at good prices. Consequently, they sell their products at below-market prices. Projects and organizations that link women farmers with better markets, offer them the opportunity to increase their earnings.
Improved training and information
Women farmers in rural areas sometimes often lack proper education. Thus it is difficult for them to search, find, and understand information that could help improve their agricultural production. Training and information for rural farmers wary from literacy training to dedicated programs on-farm management, sales, marketing, and sustainable farming practices.
Better agricultural practices that guarantee equal participation and earning would also attract more young people to the sector.
What’s the situation of women farmers in your community? What needs to be improved and how would you do it? Submit your innovative ideas and projects to the Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition 2022. If you’re not sure how we suggest you take our free entrepreneurship training. It can help you turn your sustainable business ideas into reality.