Stories tagged: gender

Young, Rural, and Female: Why Agriculture Needs Girls

On International Women’s Day, Laura Glenn O’Carroll, Research Associate at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, outlines findings from their latest report: Girls Leading, which explores why investing in rural girls is critical for solving global hunger.

It’s not easy being a rural girl. Across the globe, only 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school, compared to 45 percent of rural boys. Most rural economies are based around natural resources, and girls are often the backbone of farming families; girls are largely the ones spending hours carrying water, seeking firewood, and caring for family members.

But an adolescent girl is on the precipice of change. If she is able to remain in school, gain valuable skills, and stay healthy, she can earn an income and invest in her family and her community. If she stops attending school, marries early, and becomes a young mother, her ability to reach her full potential is curtailed. Her loss is our loss as well. The global community cannot advance without these key members.

Recently, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released the digital report, Girls Leading: From Rural Economies to Global Solutions, chaired by Catherine Bertini, that brought together over 20 diverse authors to share their perspectives on rural girls and their ability to break the cycle of poverty and hunger.

This report builds on our 2011 report, Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies. The authors draw from their experiences in academic, legal, NGO, multilateral, diplomatic, private-sector, medical, and technological backgrounds—plus personal experience—to both highlight the needs of rural girls and the solutions to the challenges that they face.

Agriculture is a key lever of this empowerment. More than 60 percent of rural people live in poverty, and women and girls are overrepresented among the poor. By investing in rural girls— and allowing them the same level of access to land, inputs, financing, and education that their male rural counterparts receive—countries could unlock transformative economic development. It has been well documented that whole communities benefit if women earn higher incomes. When women work, they spend nearly all of their income on their family’s well being—nearly 90 percent of their earnings. By comparison, men invest only 35 percent of their income back into their families. This impact multiplies when millions of women are empowered, creating compounding effects that can reshape entire economies and national fortunes.

But female farmers, despite being 40 to 50 percent of the agricultural labor force, continue to see lower yields than male farmers. Female farmers are also burden with domestic roles as well, which can mean that customized support for training, child care, and more are needed in order to reach parity. In sub-Saharan Africa, women carry at least three times more tons per year than men—largely firewood and water—and are responsible for more than 70 percent of household labor. In Benin and Tanzania, for example, rural women work respectively 17.4 and 14 hours more than men each week. But closing the gender gap could increase agricultural yields by as much as 30 percent, which would mean higher incomes for rural families.

Agricultural development is up to four times more impactful than investments in other sectors for reducing poverty. The world’s youth population—2.3 billion and growing—are increasingly living in low- and middle-income countries where economies are dependent on the successful transformation of agriculture. But infrastructure development is key to realising these gains in rural regions. The potential of rural girls in particular has not been fully realised, as low investment in rural infrastructure and education expansion in both high- and low-income countries disproportionately impacts girls.

As climate change increasingly impacts weather patterns, these gaps will become even more impactful. As the least empowered members of their communities, rural girls are also the most affected by changes in the natural world. Already, nearly 80 per cent of people displaced by climate change are female and rural girls are disproportionately killed or displaced by natural disasters. Additionally, during long-term weather events, such as drought, girls often bear the impact of negative coping strategies. Early marriage rates increase during times of environmental crisis, and girls are often the first to be withdrawn from school when family resources dwindle.

Women and girls are not simply victims, however. They are key actors who have vital knowledge of their community and environment. If girls do not have the ability to participate in decision making, access resources and opportunities that they need, or learn practical skills, half of the population will be unable to contribute adequately to climate change adaptation. Being on the front lines of climate change, girls have the experience and the opportunity to best identify solutions—but first they must be empowered with education and a voice in their communities. Only by supporting the human rights of rural girls will the global community benefit from their talents and ambitions.

Getting More Women into Science Can Help Solve our Food System’s Challenges Faster

On the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Keri Carstens, Global Regulatory Lead – Seed Applied Technologies & Biologicals at Corteva Agriscience, speaks to Farming First about how we can encourage women into agricultural research.

From water scarcity, to pests and diseases that move into new regions and devastate crops, to access to information technology resources, the challenges faced by farmers around the world are complex and ever-evolving.

To solve these problems and enable food production, we need the best and brightest minds working in agricultural research. We need new ideas and diverse viewpoints. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science highlights the great need for women in science, and promotes the impact they can have.

I grew up on a multi-generational farm in Iowa; my family produced corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hogs, sheep, and the occasional hay and oats crop. My dad was a science teacher before he came back to farming full-time. Early on he got me interested in the technical and scientific aspects of farming, by describing the types of equipment and crop protection tools he used, and answering my endless “why” and “how” questions.

For many years, I was certain I would become a veterinarian, so I pursued a pre-veterinary biology degree. One summer during my undergraduate studies, I applied for a Program for Women in Science and Engineering summer research internship. I was accepted and was assigned to a lab that does pesticide toxicology and risk assessment research.

This area of study is the interface between the tools farmers need, like pesticides, and protecting the environment. I fell in love. I have always had a passion for agriculture and the environment, and that area of study sits at the very nexus of the two, helping farmers to make decisions that will protect their harvest and environment at the same time. That summer, I decided that my next steps would be to pursue a Ph.D. in pesticide toxicology, and a career in the field.

I now work at Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, and I serve as Global Regulatory Lead for Seed Applied Technologies and Biologicals. Around the world, there are special regulatory processes required for each pesticide used as a seed treatment to prevent food loss.

My job is to coordinate with the team of scientists and regulatory specialists around the globe to make sure we do the studies we need to demonstrate safety and efficacy of the seed treatment products, and that we deliver those data to regulators so they can make a decision about the new products we are proposing. In addition to this work, I have the opportunity to lead our company’s engagement around pollinator stewardship.

I love my job. I work at the intersection of agriculture, science and environmental stewardship, with the goal of enriching lives of farmers and consumers, so we all see sustainable progress. And, every day I am amazed at the number of smart, compassionate, fun, diverse people I have the opportunity to work with – all who care about the same things I do.

While barriers remain, I believe the situation for women in science has improved over where it has been historically. Around the world, movements like the International Day of Women and Girls in Science help to highlight the gaps that remain, but more importantly, the achievements of women in STEM fields. These are important steps in the right direction. The old saying “to see is to believe” in many ways applies to inspiring the next generation of scientists; young people need to see people like themselves in careers to feel inspired and empowered to pursue the path.

To overcome the barriers that do remain, I think it boils down to two needs: encouraging fearlessness and building on programming. Mentorship programs and internships are key to bringing more females into STEM fields, but we cannot overlook basic encouragement. At several points in my academic studies and my career, I have benefited from advocates who took a strong interest in me and said “go for it.”

At the same time, that bolstered my initiative to pursue internships, or new roles. One example from my own past that I would highlight – during my undergraduate studies at Wartburg College, I worked in a professor’s biology lab a few hours each week, conducting very basic experiments for some extra money. This man had unbelievable patience with me, while I trialled new CO2 probes and re-ran experiment after experiment for a small-scale study I was conducting.

All along, he encouraged me to try new things and take my time, so that I could learn. What he was teaching me was the basic research process.

To this day, I credit Dr. Ventullo as instilling in me the confidence to apply for the summer Women in Science research internship, which led to my “discovery” of the field of toxicology, which became my career. It can be as simple as one person’s words of encouragement. And, if each of us can play that role for one young woman, we will make a difference.

Featured photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Sustainable Pasture Practices Double Milk Production in Colombia

By adopting environmentally-friendly pasture management methods, female dairy farmers can unlock a dormant cattle industry, Jessica Joye writes on behalf of Fintrac. 

La Montañita, a small town located in southwest Colombia, is an area rich in biodiversity and home to two of the country’s largest waterways. However, despite these ecological benefits, the region has been plagued by violence, illicit crop production, and rampant deforestation.

Given the region’s long history of cattle ranching, USAID’s Producers to Markets Alliance (PMA) program, implemented by Fintrac, is partnering with the Association for Economic Solidarity of Central and Lower Cagúan (ASOES) to establish Sustainable Pasture Divisions (DSPs) for 565 rural dairy farmers. DSP is an environmentally-friendly pasture management method based on rotational grazing and pasture divisions. Cattle are placed into pens with high-nutrient fodder grass to restrict overfeeding on one particular area of land. The pens are rotated seasonally as new grass is planted and appropriate for grazing. This method helps cattle optimize nutritional benefits from grass and increase milk production while also ensuring other vegetation is safe from overfeeding.

Flor Maria Gutiérrez Laguna is one of 149 women who are becoming leaders in their community by adopting new methodologies such as DSPs. Flor Maria began with 26 hectares of land divided into four lots; working with ASOES and PMA, she put three hectares under the DSP methodology and quickly began to see an increase in milk productivity thanks to improved access to water for her herd, as well as less damage to her pasture from grazing.

Upon seeing these results, she invested more than $1,000 of her own funds to implement DSP practices on the rest of her land. She also invested in a cement structure to elevate her aqueduct and improve her drinking stations, which she installed with PMA assistance. These improvements have saved her up to two hours per day in water collection – time she can now dedicate to other income-generating activities.

The impact of these activities on her quality of life has been significant.

“Thanks to the program, I have doubled my production. Before, I averaged about 25 liters per day with my 15 dairy cows, and now I am selling 50 liters per day,” she says.

“The extra income helped me invest in more materials for my farm, but most importantly, it has helped me pay for my son’s engineering school, a dream that had been put on hold until recently.”

PMA is bringing hope and opportunity to a region previously plagued with violence and illegality, offering new technologies and effective methods of production for Caquetá’s dairy farmers, empowering them to build a sustainable economic path for future generations.

Featured photo credit: Fintrac/Jessica Joye. Flor Maria Gutierrez Laguna is working with Fintrac’s PMA program to implement improved pasture practices for her 15-cow herd. Since adopting these new methods, she’s seen milk production double. She’s investing her additional income into farm and home improvements as well as her family’s education.

 

JUN82018
G7 Summit

8th – 9th June 2018

La Malbaie, Canada

The Group of Seven (G7) is an informal grouping of seven of the world’s advanced economies consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The forum offers an opportunity for G7 Leaders, Ministers and policy makers to come together each year to build consensus and set trends around some of today’s most challenging global issues.

The European Union (EU) was first invited to attend the G7 in 1977 and the President of the European Commission has attended all of its sessions since 1981. Both the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission represent the EU at G7 summits.

Read more >> 

Hastags: #G7Charlevoix, #G7

JUN52018
EU Development Days

5th – 6th June 2018

Brussels, Belgium

Organised by the European Commission, the European Development Days (EDD) bring the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

For its twelfth edition, EDD 2018 will aim at bringing together the European Union’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Gender equality and women empowerment are at the core of European values and enshrined within the EU’s legal and political framework. This is why the event will focus on the vital role of women and the need for their full and equal participation and leadership in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Read more >>

Hashtags: #SheisWe #EDD18

How Young Women Can Find Opportunities in African Agriculture

By Dace Mahanay, Regional Program Director at STRYDE.

Jennifer, a young mother from Gulu, Uganda, faced bleak prospects after her husband passed away. She had been kicked out of her home by her in-laws and had no job with which to support her family. Without a high school education, she was not optimistic about finding opportunities. “Even casual jobs were not easy to come by, because…not many economically engaging activities were taking place within my village,” she said.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, millions of young women like Jennifer are sidelined from economic opportunities. The International Labor Organization found that one third of young women in the region are not working, studying or receiving training, more than double the rate of their male peers. With more than 6 million young women coming of working age every year, African economies must create more new jobs and business opportunities for them.

But it’s a steep challenge. Across Africa, women generally have less access to education, training, financial services, and assets than men do. In Jennifer’s home country of Uganda, for instance, women own just 5 percent of the land, though they perform much of the labor on family farms. Cultural and traditional views of gender roles can also limit women’s opportunities. Addressing the problem, therefore, requires not only building individual capacity, but also changing the mindsets of families and communities and forging inclusive networks.

That is the mindset behind an entrepreneurship program that has trained tens of thousands of young people across Africa and is now helping local institutions adopt this approach: the Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program. Since 2011, Mastercard Foundation and TechnoServe have partnered on STRYDE to equip young people in rural communities across Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda with the business and personal skills they need to develop economic opportunities in their communities.

The results of the first phase of the project were striking: the 15,000 STRYDE graduates had achieved average income increases of 133 percent, with 96 percent of participants reporting increased savings. The percentage of “idle” youth (those neither working nor studying) fell by 80 percent. A second phase of the project, which will reach 48,000 additional young people by the time it is completed, is also showing positive results.

Importantly, both female and male graduates have exhibited significant gains. The success of women in the STRYDE program can be attributed to three main factors:

Building skills and personal effectiveness

STRYDE participants receive three months of training on business skills, like saving and managing finances, but also on “soft skills”, like personal effectiveness and goal-setting. The participants also receive nine months of tailored “aftercare” and mentorship support to reinforce the content of the training and support youth in opportunity identification. This focus on both hard and soft skills is especially important for women, who typically receive little encouragement to think entrepreneurially.

Jennifer moved back with her parents and enrolled in the STRYDE program. She soon began to see economic opportunities all around her.

“As a family, we had a chunk of land. But I had never thought of agriculture as business, but for only growing food for household consumption,” Jennifer said. After receiving training, she asked to use an acre of her brother’s idle land to try her hand at commercial farming. Now, she earns more than $800 per harvest season from her eggplants, okra, and tomatoes, and she can pay for her children’s school fees. “My children are now assured of a better future thanks to the knowledge and skills that I acquired during the training,” she said.

Engaging families

In some households, husbands, parents, and in-laws view women’s roles as primarily domestic, and do not see why young women should attend training, work outside the home, or access family resources for a business. In many cases, these family members exercise a sort of veto power over the ambitions of women.

As a result, STRYDE has worked to engage both men and women on the issue of gender. A training module – “We Can Fly” –  helps participants understand the impact of gender norms and highlights concrete benefits of women and men both contributing economically and making decisions together.

In Rwanda, for instance, a STRYDE participant named Philippe decided to start a new business growing and selling vegetables alongside his wife. He asked her to go into business with him, he explained, because of how the program had changed his ideas around gender. Previously, he thought a woman’s role was at home. After seeing the success that female STRYDE participants were achieving in their businesses, however, he realized that his wife could also contribute to the family’s income.

Building strong networks and access to markets

Farmers and entrepreneurs need access to customers and suppliers, as well as mentors and peers who can offer advice. Unfortunately, in rural Africa, women tend to have fewer of these linkages.

The STRYDE program takes several steps to address this. First, the mixed-gender training encourages male and female participants to build connections. Because men tend to have larger business networks at the beginning, the female STRYDE participants can take advantage of those linkages. The program’s aftercare component is also designed to improve access to networks and markets–for example, by providing young women with tradeskills training from established entrepreneurs or introducing participants to outgrower schemes.

Networks were key to the success of Rose, a STRYDE graduate in Kenya. Before joining the program, Rose worked in her uncle’s agrovet shop. But after going through the training, she decided to go into business herself.

With her new business skills, Rose was able to successfully apply for a small loan to start her own agrovet store. She credits the program with strengthening her communication and negotiation skills, which helped her attract customers. She now supplies animal feeds to two cooperatives, an important source of income for her. ““I am now able to pay school fees for my   three siblings, who are still in school. I am happy to have lessened the burden of raising my young brothers and sisters on my mother, a single mother who really struggled to put us through school,” she said.

The impact of gender equality

Women entrepreneurs like Rose are not only helping themselves and their families; they are also providing essential services for others. This proves an essential point: empowering women economically not only benefits individuals and communities, but society as a whole. According to a UNDP report, closing the gender gap in pay and access to paid work would add an extra $95 billion to the economies of sub-Saharan Africa every year.

By equipping women with the right skills and mindset, addressing gender norms in households and communities, and ensuring that women have access to networks and markets, we can help close that gap.

This article originally appeared on the Chicago Council’s Food for Thought blog.