In developing countries, women comprise 43% of the agricultural labor force, ranging from 20% in Latin America to a solid 50% in Sub-Saharan Africa. But across the board, these women are underpaid and under-equipped, yet crucial contributors to feeding the planet. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released this year's State of Food and Agriculture report on Women in Agriculture. With the prospect of feeding 9 billion people (we are at 6.9 billion right now), increasing the productivity of women farmers is essential. Efforts to help women obtain tools, inputs, training, land ownership, and other essentials will work towards this end.
Already there are groups across the world striving to empower women in agriculture, and facilitate their success in this pursuit (read about a Nigerian women's association). The World Watch Institute's Nourishing the Planet initiative has showcased many of these efforts on their blog, including the above video of the Barli Institute for the Development of Rural Women. It has also highlighted women's contribution to food production and use of innovative sustainable growing practices. Also, check out Divine Chocolate's take on women in their cooperative-owned fair trade chocolate!
At Women Thrive Worldwide's Women's Day Breakfast last week, I was heartened to hear the speakers emphasize integration of agricultural production, climate change mitigation and adaptation (we'll talk soon about floods and droughts), and empowering women. One point driven home at this discussion, and echoed in other instances, is that when women are given the control over their land and the ability to earn income from what they produce, they are more likely to funnel it back into their families, into their children's educations, and into improving the community. Not to say girls are better than boys are anything, but we have to give credit where credit is due.
Contribute further to the discussion on women and agriculture at the Food Security and Nutrition forum.