Farming women feed the planet

April 20, 2018

There is a high probability that any agricultural product that we buy has been produced by a woman. Today, 43 per cent of agricultural labor (FAO data) is made up by women. Women's contribution is essential for the food security of entire communities and for the farming production of many developing and rural countries. There are, however, still too many gender disparities, which force women to accept lower salaries and inferior working conditions, and prevent them from accessing financing. Not to mention the fact that they have no weight in the political decisions of the communities where they live, and which they help support. 

According to Monique Villa of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, less than 20 per cent of land owners are women, while according to the FAO, the corresponding percentage in the poorest countries is below 10 per cent . Despite all this, 400 million women produce most of the world's food. 

ll international organizations today recognize the role of women in agriculture, a factor taken into consideration also in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set up by the United Nations, which provide all major targets needed to achieve a globally shared, accessible development.

Gender parity in the SDGs 

Goal 5, aiming to achieve gender equality and improve women's life conditions, eradicating any form of violence in both private and public life, is one of the most pragmatic objectives, but also one of the most difficult ones to achieve, according to the United Nations that wrote and promoted it. Women do not just work the land, they are also entrepreneurs and leaders of their households and communities. It has been shown, through experiments carried out on the field by international organizations and governmental agencies operating in the area of cooperation, that when women are guaranteed the same access as men to community resources, services and economic opportunities, production increases, the economic and social benefits of the community improve, and malnutrition and poverty are reduced.


The next feminism will be in agriculture 

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is convinced that guaranteeing equal opportunities in rural areas and developing countries will be essential in the near future. Gender inequality generates a gap in agricultural production that costs millions of dollars to the economies of farming countries (IFAD calculates that in Uganda alone, these costs amount to 67 million dollars per year). Gender equality generates not only a better condition for women, but also improved food security and agricultural production. IFAD is currently supporting several projects in Tanzania and Mozambique, offering training on financial matters and on the use of technology to groups of farmers composed by a majority of women. This not only enables farmers to access formal financial markets, but also ensures that they are better informed on market prices, thus increasing their profits and making them able to save. 

Landesa, an organization working on poverty reduction, has shown how, in Nepal, the children of women who are able to purchase land are 33 per cent less likely to be malnourished, while in Rwanda, women who have greater property rights are also more involved in conservation and sustainable use of the land. 

Gender equality, less food waste

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is also convinced that women are as good as men in farming. Actually, gender parity can increase food production and reduce waste. The FAO has been joining forces with the Save Food Initiative since 2011, working alongside local authorities and private organizations to reduce food loss and waste. With the right tools and know-how, losses can be drastically reduced, particularly working on food preservation and processing after harvest, and on food storage and chilling, especially in countries with difficult climate. 

In a planet with finite resources, where 815 million people go hungry because of wars and climate change, the right support to gender parity will be essential for food access and shared welfare, beginning with agriculture.