The role of women in agriculture in developing countries

Mar 01, 2021 | written by:

Women working in the fields. For those who have ever been to Africa, a familiar image. An image with a bitter aftertaste. 

Unfortunately, women still face major obstacles in agriculture, especially in developing countries. It is an inequality with tradition. On the occasion of International Women's Day on 8th March, we want to get to the bottom of this problem and dispel some of the myths. 

First, let's take a look at the background. According to the UN World Food Report 2020, about 820 million people were affected by hunger last year. A large proportion of these people live in developing countries and 50% of them are small farmers in rural areas. To combat these and other global issues, the UN has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals. One of these goals is “equality between men and women”. 

On paper, this sounds relatively simple. After all, we are talking about one of the most fundamental human rights. But what about equality in reality?
For this, let us first stay in Africa. The continent has the prerequisites to develop agriculture into its economic engine. However, this potential is not yet being realised. One reason for this is the inequality of women - in the economy and unfortunately also in the minds of many people.

Examples? Women produce up to 68% of the continent's food, but they own only one-fifth of the land under cultivation. Access, ownership or control of land for women - still unthinkable in many regions. In addition, there are problems on a structural level: statistically, women in developing countries have lower educational qualifications than men and are paid less. Of course, this has nothing to do with actual qualifications - but with outdated role models. The man as the "provider" of the family. This is still the standard in many regions, especially in rural areas.  Moreover, a lack of equality is often politically anchored. Negotiating tables where decisions are made about land rights and agricultural policy are often male-dominated.

The potential that lies hidden here is huge. As a reminder, 80% of the world's food is produced in smallholder plantations. Women farmers have less access to technologies and resources, such as fertilisers or machinery. They are also much more likely to be denied credit. Credits that are necessary to acquire land or to buy these resources. What remains is simple field work.
That has to change. Just talking about it, however, does not help the women farmers on the ground. Real change requires a change of mindset. What is the best way to achieve this? One possible answer: positive examples. Because these can gradually break down prejudices, mistrust and even economic doubts. Social change takes time. And initiatives that give hope by actually implementing change. 

One of these initiatives is our project in Guatemala. Together with our partner organisation AMKA, Treedom is involved in the implementation of local projects that establish the empowerment of women in the region, especially through education and training in the field of agriculture. 
For those for whom moral awareness alone is not enough of an argument: it is simple mathematics. More efficient distribution of resources leads to higher productivity. Oxfam estimates that equal rights for women farmers could increase total global crop yields by 20-30%. A milestone in the fight against global hunger and poverty. 

The face of agriculture in developing countries is female. It is time that this is also reflected in equal opportunities. Because in the end, it is not only women who win. But all of us.


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