Why intersectionality is key to women’s empowerment in agriculture


Women play a critical and potentially transformative role in agricultural growth in developing countries, but they face persistent obstacles and economic contraints which limit their full inclusion in agriculture. The FAO suggest that closing the gender gap in access to productive resources could increase agricultural output in the developing world by 2.5-4%, reducing the number of undernourished people by 12-17%. Women in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia produce more than half of all the food grown worldwide. Empowering women in agriculture is fundamental to achieving the global goals.

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Women farmers in Ekxang Village equipped with pest-smart practices against pest and disease outbreaks

by Sathis Sri Thanarajoo. Reblogged from CCAFS: CGIAR News blog.

A woman plant doctor discussing pest-smart practices with women farmers in Ekxang village. Photo credit: A.Costa (CABI) – view original

The Pest Smart program aims to enable farmers, particularly women and marginalized groups, to become resilient against potential pests and diseases outbreaks due to climate change.

The Pest Smart program promotes the adoption of climate-smart practices that manage pests and diseases, and empowers women to be actively involved in the decision-making process. It also serves as a platform to build the capacity and encourage participation of women farmers in dealing with pests and diseases (P&D).

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We need to involve more women in the agricultural sciences. Here’s how.

The African Women in Agricultural Research and Development is a career-development program that equips the top women agricultural scientists across sub-Saharan Africa. Photo by: AWARD

“I would like to see the scientist working on beans; do you know where I can find him?” I got asked this question more times that I could count.

As a young female African researcher working in Malawi for an international agriculture research organization, my office was the first in a long corridor of offices where we were hosted by the National Research Organization. In the eyes of the regular visitors to the office, I did not fit the image of an agricultural scientist.

A recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that in 2014, only 24 percent of researchers working in the agricultural sciences were women, and only 17 percent of those in leadership positions were women in a sample of 40 sub-Saharan African countries. This matters because the evidence shows that better jobs for women in agriculture leads to higher wages and greater decision making — which ultimately has a positive impact on the ways households spend money on children’s nutrition, health, and education. Having more women in agricultural research also ensures that this workforce is representative of its client base: Smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women.

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Increasing Food Security and Empowering Women

Efforts to help developing countries increase their food security and to empower women should be considered together as both are dependent on one another. The FAO has said that if women had the same resource access in agriculture as men then food output in developing countries would increase by enough to pull 100-150 million people out of hunger (FAO Report). By comparing the work by BirdLife and Plantwise’s own plant clinics (plant clinics around the world) you begin to see the first signs of how empowering women can lead to increased food security.

CABI Plantwise Image

Recently a project in Paraguay by Nature Canada (partnered with BirdLife) helped 478 women farmers in efforts to promote sustainable agriculture in the region.  They aimed to balance conservation objectives, such as preventing deforestation and monocultures, with benefiting farmers.

They were successful in this and were also able to improve the awareness of gender equality as well as the rights of women. It has led to some women actively demanding their rights be respected and the formation of 10 committees by the women farmers who have successfully obtained municipal recognition.

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