Stories tagged: World Farmers Organisation

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:


Putting Farming First at the LDCs Conference


May 12, 2011

Least Developed Countries Conference IV

Istanbul, Turkey

Agriculture is the foundation for most LDC economies, and is the primary agent for eradicating poverty and hunger. The session explored the key policies needed to enable smallholder farmers to break the subsistence cycle and become small-scale entrepreneurs.

Panelists included farmers from Rwanda and Uganda explaining the importance of safeguarding natural resources, sharing knowledge, and providing local access to inputs and banking.  Speakers from the business sector talked about the capacity to improve the quantity and quality of harvests with improved inputs and good nutrients, the power of local investment, the value of extension and technical advice, and the value of research.  A leading NGO illustrated methods to foster development by aggregating smallholder farmers to have critical marketing mass and the importance of primary processing to add value in rural communities in LDCs.

Participants representing 19 LDCs, as well as a number of developed and developing countries, actively took up the discussion and highlighted the importance of best practices and the need for improved use of inputs. An increased investment in research and development is needed and one participant described the importance of furthering innovation through government funding more research and development amongst the private sector.  As well, traditional knowledge was highlighted, including the need to offer technical support to blend existing farming practices with new ones. The importance of proper pricing and insurance was also noted.

Main Conclusions

1)    Assistance is needed to break the subsistence cycle and allow smallholder farmers in LDCs to become small-scale entrepreneurs. A key factor is meeting Maputo commitments to investment of 10% of national budgets into agriculture in LDCs

2)    More work is needed to find committed farmers, committed governments, and committed donors and put them together with the private sector to scale up rural development in LDCs.

3)    Agriculture is knowledge-based. Extension services are needed to share best know how and best practices, especially through public-private partnerships.

4)    There is a need for “sustainable intensification” of agriculture to reduce rural poverty.

5)    Land tenure security is essential to allow farmers to access credit and to encourage proper stewardship.

6)    Sustainable access to water is essential for farmers.

7)    Improved infrastructure to link rural areas to cities, rail, and ports is essential.

8)    Primary and secondary processing is needed to further rural development and economic returns and improve prices for farmers.

9)    Access to markets, including domestic, regional, and export is needed.  Farm organisations, NGOs, and business can help smallholders aggregate to access markets.

10)Holistic solutions that encompass the entire cycle of production are needed.

World Farmers Statement at LDCs Conference

Below is the statement delivered by the World Farmers Organisation at the UN High Level Thematic Debate on Reducing Vulnerabilities, responding to emergencies, and enhancing food security in the LDCs (least developed countries).

Mr. Chairman,

My name is Charles Ogang, President of the Ugandan Farmers Federation and a representative of the World Farmers Organisation.

Agriculture is central to development, poverty reduction and food security. Farmers must be returned to the centre of policy discussions on food security and sustainable development as we are the first step in addressing food security.  Unfortunately, too many of the world’s hungry are also farmers. We must be at the table for discussions to address the vulnerabilities faced in LDCs.

As a farmer in an LDC, I would like to highlight some key steps related to increasing food security and increasing resilience in LDCs :

a)    A holistic approach is needed that covers farm production from start through to market

b)    Agricultural research and extension services are essential and need more support to help farmers adapt to drought desertification, flood and climate change

c)    Smallholder farmers must be empowered to strengthen their productivity, sustainability and resilience. This includes land tenure rights for farmers, particularly women and support for farmer organisations.

d)    Post harvest losses are as high as 40% in some areas. Losses must be minimized through increased access to storage, improved infrastructure, better local collection systems to ensure more food gets to mouths that need it.

e)    Resilience of farmers must increased through safety nets, crop and herd insurance, secure banking.

f)      The Maputo commitments of 10% of government expenditures to agriculture in African countries is an important step toward food security in the region.

We can spend money on food aid, but long term we must focus on the issues of food security which demands greater food production in LDCs. I ask the panelists, how can we better link agriculture to food security?