International Women’s Day was celebrated around the world on March 8. However, women working in agriculture in developing countries are still facing many challenges on the road to equality and success.
Rural women represent, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural workforce in the developing world, but they produce lower yields than male farmers. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this happens not because women are less skilled, but because they do not have equal access to the resources and opportunities they need to be more productive.
“If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, potentially reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent,” says ‘The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011 report’ issued by the FAO in 2011.
The report shows the gender gaps in accessing agricultural resources such as land, livestock, farm labor, education, extension services, credit, fertilizers and mechanical equipment.
According to the FAO, the agriculture sector is underperforming in many developing countries, in part because of gender inequality. Closing the gender gap would generate significant gains for agriculture and for society.
Empowerment for change
"Women play an important role in agriculture, especially in developing countries. We need to empower women, providing them access to land, fertilizer, education and financial services. Promoting gender equality is crucial for agricultural development and food security," says Jørgen Ole Haslestad, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yara.
“We need to promote economic opportunities for women, allowing them to build assets, increase incomes and improve family welfare. These are essential steps to female empowerment, and to sustainable development in agriculture,” adds Haslestad.
Through the Yara Prize, for example, the company has recognized different initiatives which aim to boost the productivity of rural women in developing countries.
In 2006 Celina Cossa of Mozambique and Fidelis Wainaina of Kenya were laureates for their work with small-scale farmers to build a sustainable, self-sufficient food supply in Mozambique and Kenya.
In 2012 the Yara Prize was awarded to Agnes Kalibata of Rwanda and Eleni Gabre-Madhin of Ethiopia for their work on effective public policies in support of agricultural growth and innovation in agricultural markets.