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Meet the Women Filling the Gender Gap in Agriculture

By Kait Partanen

If we had the chance to lift 150 million more people out of hunger – why wouldn’t we jump at it?

The gender gap in agriculture is stopping us from doing this. On average, women farmers grow 20-30 percent less than their male counterparts, due to unequal access to productive resources and services. But filling this gap would boost global agricultural output by up to 4 percent, equivalent to 150 million fewer people going to bed hungry each night.

In conjunction with the Commission on the Status of Women, running at the United Nations in New York, Farming First has been asking in its latest campaign: where does the gender gap in agriculture still exist, and who are the women that are filling it?

  1. Women can’t control natural resources as well as men.

Worldwide, women account for just 13 percent of agricultural landholders. In many societies, laws and tradition bar women from owning and inheriting land. This puts them at risk of losing resources and benefits, such as payments for environmental services or making productive use of forests.

Joyce Lali, a beekeeping business woman from Erri Village in Tanzania, is working to close this gap. A Farm Africa initiative helped Joyce create a livelihood from honey products. Previously, women were unable to participate in beekeeping as it was culturally unacceptable for them to climb trees. Farm Africa introduced ground-level hives. This new line of income has sent Joyce’s children to school and renovated her house. By being able to make productive use of natural resources, her livelihood has been transformed. Read Joyce’s story.

  1. Women can’t access technical training as well as men.

According to FAO, women receive just 5 percent of agricultural extension in 97 percent countries. In the Indian state of Bihar, this lack of access to technical training was preventing female farmers from reaping the profits they were entitled to receive from their lychee trees. The crop needs a lot of careful tending, but having never received training on how to do this, the women were accustomed to leasing the orchards to middle-men who would capture the profits for themselves.

Chanda Devi has been working with Technoserve to ensure the women in the farmer producer company she leads could learn to look after these orchards themselves and enter the fresh fruit market. The women received training on irrigation, fertilizer application and how to apply crop protection products. Now they have contracts with big buyers, and are no longer at the mercy of middlemen. Read Chanda’s story.

  1. Women can’t access improved inputs as well as men.

Water, improved seeds and fertilizer are all essential to achieve good yields – but women farmers struggle to access all of these vital inputs. For example, fertilizer use by female headed households in Bangladesh is less than half compared to male headed households.

A new seed laboratory led by Fintrac seeks to improve access to quality potato seeds for Guatemalan farmers, and Griselda Velazquez has been proving that women have the technical capabilities to lead seed production. The improved seeds are pest and disease resistant and can boost yields by up to 300 percent. In Guatemala, seeds are traditionally passed from father to son, but Griselda’s trainings in the community are reaching both men and women, to even the planting field. Read Griselda’s story.

  1. Women can’t access climate-smart training as well as men.

The latest report from UN Women states that women are 14 times more likely to die in a climate related disaster than men. As stewards of the land that rely heavily on natural resources, female farmers need access to training that will help them build their resilience to climate change, but it does not always reach them.

A project led by NGO Self Help Africa has trained women in Burkina Faso to become more “climate-smart”. Habibou is one of these women, who received improved seed and training on conservation agriculture techniques, how to store her produce and how to rear poultry. Having diversified her income and boosted her yields, she is now positive about her family’s future and is sending all her children to school. Read Habibou’s story.

  1. Women can’t access markets as well as men.

Rural women in remote areas are less able than their male counterparts to get their produce to market. This may be due to a lack of transport infrastructure or not being able to drive. In the Ukraine, for example, most rural women do not hold a driver’s license, yet many are engaged in agricultural activity.

Lubov Semenyuk, a food factory CEO in Ukraine, has been working to fill this gap by sending trucks out to remote areas to collect produce from farmers – the majority of whom are females. Her factory has received support from USAID and Chemonics to update its facilities in order to create a new line of products using traditional produce and open up new markets for Ukrainian farmers. Read Lubov’s story.

  1. Women can’t shape research priorities as well as men.

Globally, women account for just 28 percent of researchers, and they are particularly underrepresented in agricultural science. Despite significant growth in recent years, only 30 percent of agricultural scientists in Kenya and Nigeria are female, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute. But it is a different story in the Philippines.

Celia Medina is one of many female entomologists studying the interaction between crops and pests in the Philippines. Her work centres on fighting the mango leaf hopper, which can destroy up to 90 percent of a farmer’s mango crop. She decided to join the boys’ curriculum in high school, enabling her to swap home economics for agriculture, and she hasn’t looked back. She hopes to inspire a new generation of scientists that will bring greater food security to her country. Read Celia’s story.

Filling the gender gap in agriculture will make great strides towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those around ending hunger and gender equality. For infographics, case studies and videos on how this can be done, visit:



04/16/2018 8:00 AM |Add a comment
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