Stories tagged: international day of rural women

International Day of Rural Women

15th October 2018


The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”


Monica Maigari: My Message on the International Day of Rural Women

To celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, we interviewed Monica Maigari, a Nigerian farmer who has been named a “Female Food Hero” by Oxfam. Monica spoke at the session “Food Security in Crisis” at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa.

FF: How did you begin your career as a farmer?

MM: I was first introduced to farming as an elementary student. The teachers would take us to the countryside in the evening where we would work in the gardens and learn about farming. I took an interest and learned much. After marriage, my husband and I as teachers made little money. So I began farming to supplement our income.

FF: What are the challenges farmers face in your region?

MM: In our region, one of the main difficulties is access to the equipment that can make our agriculture less labour intensive. In addition, reliable access to improved seeds and inputs can be a real challenge. Finally, for women, the right to inherit and have title to land is difficult.

FF: Is climate change affecting your region?

MM: Yes. The main difference is in the timing and duration of the annual rainy season. One year the rains may come late; the next year they may be very early. For example, farmers in my region of Kaduna state usually plant rice in July to coincide with the annual rains. However, this year the rains came early and our rice harvest will be very small.

FF: How have you overcome these challenges?

MM: I have sought out education and worked to develop test plots that not only help me to try new techniques and seeds, but also help other women to learn more modern practices of farming – in seed spacing, rotation with legumes, and moisture retention.

FF: Do you think women face more difficulties than male farmers? 

MM: Yes. Women especially have difficulty in have secure access to land. Men are most often the landowners in the family, so if a woman is widowed she often cannot inherit the land. And yet, women are the majority of those that work the land and produce the crops, but often have the least ability to obtain credit. In addition, many extension programs are directed to men, and women are not as accepted.

FF: How have you overcome these difficulties?

MM: Like other Female Food Heroes, I have worked to form women’s groups where we share knowledge, and create opportunities for work and added value in our crops. Women mentoring and working with other women is a powerful tool.

FF: How did you get involved in the Female Food Hero Competition?

MM: A local organization came to my community with an application for the Nigeria Ogbonge Woman completion sponsored in part by Oxfam. I applied and out of over 1,200 women, I was one of twelve finalists. I then went on to take a 2nd position. Using the proceeds from that initiative, I was able to purchase the land I farmed, work as an advocate for small-scale women farmers in my region and also in other countries like Ethiopia and the U.S.

FF: How did it feel to win the competition?

MM: At first I had no words. I was the only woman winner from my state of Kaduna. I am happy that my winning is allowing me to help other women farmers, and advocate for the rights to land and the need to address climate change.

FF: What are your hopes for the future of your farm?

MM: I hope that I can continue to improve and add value to my farm, so that as I get older I will be able to sell it to another farmer and be able to use that money to benefit other women, my community, and the world.

FF: What is your message to other female farmers on International Day of Rural Women?

MM: My message is that women must join together to build a better food system, and to advocate for our rights to land, tools, and education.

Sue Carlson: Rural Women – The Missing Development Demographic

In celebration of the UN International Day of Rural Women today, our guest author, Sue Carlson of the World Farmers Organisation, looks at the status of rural women and their potential for reducing poverty and hunger around the world.

Perhaps more than any other major demographic around the world, rural women have benefitted least from development advancements in the 21st century.

Yet, empowering these rural women not only helps them directly, but also helps them to become powerful agents of change for their communities, the environment and the economy.

Today marks the United Nations’ International Day of Rural Women, which was first held in 2008 to promote “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

In celebration of this day, I am in Lusaka, Zambia for a two-day workshop looking at “investing in rural women to achieve sustainable food systems”, which is being held in parallel with the 108th Annual Congress of the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) as well as the ZNFU Women Farmers’ Forum.

Rural women receive only a fraction of the land, credit, inputs (such as improved seeds and fertilizers), agricultural training and information compared to men.

In Africa, these gaps are particularly pronounced.  Consider these statistics (all of which can be found within Farming First’s “Female Face of Farming” infographic) on African rural women farmers:

  • Only 15% of rural landholders in sub-Saharan Africa are women, yet they represent around 70% of agricultural workers and 80% of the food processors on the continent.
  • Without access or means to alternatives, 75% of smallholder farms are weeded by hand, and women do around 90% of this work – a task which takes between 50-70% of their total time on the farm.
  • Women farmers, on average, receive only around 5% of agricultural extension services, and only 10% of total aid for agriculture goes to women.
  • In most countries, there is a 5%-10% disparity in how many female-headed households can access credit compared to male-led households.

Unfair, you may say? Yes, but this is only one half of the problem.  These discrepanices also contribute to broader declines in well-being in a community.

For instance, an academic study by Hoddinott and Haddad found that a $10 increase to a woman’s income had the same health and nutrition benefit to children as a $110 increase to a man’s income.  In other ways, women are much more likely to use additional income not on themselves but in support of their families.

And broadly speaking, the fact that women receive less training and access to resources means that they are able to produce less on their land and are less able to feed themselves and those around them.  It is estimated that correcting this “gender gap” could result in a 12-17% drop in global malnourishment, as the graphic below illustrates.


Thus, today, on the International Day of Rural Women, let us all take some time to reflect on the importance which rural women play – both as producers and as care-givers – and also on the moral imperative for us all to create equal opportunities for them to thrive.

The World Farmers Organisation works hard to promote the formation and strengthening of women producer organisations and to ensure that women have a voice within mixed organisations. I encourage you all to visit our website on “Women in Agriculture” in order to learn more about this important issue.

Editor’s note:

You can also watch our Farming First TV interview with Sue Carlson, which was filmed onsite at the  2012 United Nations climate change conference, here: