Raising the Profile of Women Farmers on International Women’s Day

Today’s report from FAO truly shows the huge untapped potential that women farmers hold. In it’s 2010-2011 edition of The State of the Food and Agriculture report, they wrote,

If women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.

Neil Palmer, CIAT

Globally, the share of women employed in agriculture stands at 35.4 per cent, as compared to 32.2 per cent for men, but this proportion rises to almost half of all female employment, at 48.4 per cent, if the more industrialized regions are excluded. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia the agricultural sector makes up more than 60 per cent of all female employment.

Generally, women do not access the same resources – inputs, finance, support, land – as men and consequently their productivity is lower. Financial resources are limited for women: they receive 7 per cent of the agricultural extension services and less than 10 per cent of the credit offered to small-scale farmers. Women generally own less land and the land they have is often of lower quality than the land owned by men. According to the International Development Research Centre, women in Africa only own 1 per cent of the land. Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women’s farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent.

Research shows that if women farmers in Kenya had the same access to farm inputs, education, and experience as their men counterparts, their yields for maize, beans, and cowpeas could increase as much as 22 percent. This would have resulted in a one-time doubling of Kenya’s GDP growth rate in 2004 from 4.3 percent to 8.3 percent (World Bank).

On Reuters Trust website today, FANRPAN’s Lindiwe Majele Sibanda told the story of the “voiceless pillars of African agriculture”: the women farmers. She wrote,

A combination of logistical, cultural, and economic factors, coupled with a lack of gender statistics in the agricultural sector, means that agricultural programs are rarely designed with women’s needs in mind. As a result, African women farmers have no voice in the development of agricultural policies designed to improve their productivity.

However, FANRPAN’s WARM project (Women Accessing Realigned Markets) is helping to address that.

Based on results of a FANRPAN commissioned input subsidy study done in Malawi and Mozambique, FANRPAN has developed a theatre script “The Winds of Change”. The play explores challenges rural women farmers face in accessing agricultural inputs, land, credit and extension services among other things.

Through performance, women are able to voice their concerns, pressures and ideas in front of local leaders and policy makers.

Photo credit: Neil Palmer, CIAT

4 responses to “Raising the Profile of Women Farmers on International Women’s Day

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