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Día de la mujer: día del cultivado

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The iconic small farmer from a developing country has most often been stereotyped as male.   This image is an illusion.   Not only are half, or more than half of the over 400 million small scale farmers women, but women tend to grow the majority of the food for family consumption.  They are the direct link to improving food security and community nutrition in the developing world.   Poverty and hunger reduction are impossible without a renewed commitment to an agricultural development agenda that evaluates and accommodates the critical importance of gender.

By the Numbers

Women’s Contributions to Agriculture vs. Investments in Women’s Agricultural  Productivity (see the factsheet here)

• African women carry out 90% of the work of processing food crops and providing  household water and wood, and 80% of the work of food storage and transport  from farm to village.

• In Southeast Asia, women provide up to 90% of labor for rice cultivation.

• Women perform from 25 to 45%of agricultural field tasks in Colombia and Peru.

• In Kenya, women provide approximately 75% of total agricultural labor force.

• Women receive only 5% of extension services worldwide, they receive only 10% of credit extended for agricultural loans.

• Only 15% of agricultural extension agents are women – significant cultural barriers in many developing countries discourage male extension agents from working directly with women cultivators.

• A World Bank review found a higher success rate in agricultural projects that had a gender-related focus – 74% of projects with a gender related focus were deemed successful compared to 65% of projects with no gender related focus.

Why is gender important?

For agriculture, understanding the gender dynamics in food production is key to understanding how resources, roles, and tasks are being divided and used towards productive ends and how they are impacting the overarching goals of poverty reduction and hunger alleviation.  By any indicator of development, female power and resources are lowest in rural areas of the developing world – areas that are predominately populated by women and girls.   Women producers who are attempting to grow food for their families face a variety of barriers to success, and often have little hope of raising themselves or their families out of cycles of poverty and hunger.  In agriculture, women face dramatic challenges in the following areas:

1.   Gender roles and resource distribution. With men largely controlling the trade and production of cash crops, men tend to largely dominate the use of inputs, animals, income and investment from agricultural activity.   As a result, women growers who are largely involved in the cultivation of fresh produce for the home, have been farming with little or no supportive tools or inputs.  This not only reduces the chance of women to reach success,but further decreases any ability she has to expand production to anything beyond meager subsistence farming.

2.   Gender relations and lack of empowerment.  The failure of many rural communities to value the work of women has made women virtually non-entities in economic transactions, the allocation of household resources, and wider community decision-making.   Growing trends of outmigration of poor rural men in search of employment continues a cycle of female poverty, leaving women with sole responsibility for food and cash crop production, as well as raising children.

3.   Gender discrimination. Credit, extension, input and seed supply services usually address the needs of male household heads and often for cash-crops.   Rural women are often not consulted in development projects which tend to increase men’s production and income, but add to their own workloads -though this is being increasingly addressed by great agro-development projects like those coming out of the FAO,  Ford Foundation or the  Gates Foundation, for example.   When women’s work burdens increase, girls are removed from school more often than boys, to help with farming and household tasks.

4.   Gender equality. Equality refers to the ability for women and girls to participate in civic and political life and decision-making, and also have access and opportunities equal to their male counterparts.   Women’s empowerment in rural communities through better access to tools, inputs, and income means a greater voice in development programs and policies that will affect their destinies and promote equal human rights for women from the farm level, to the community level, and worldwide.   It also means fostering tools

Further areas of CIAT and partner research:

Within our theme of Markets for the Poor, we are analyzing how to better incorporate women into profitable farming opportunities.  This means analyzing how women are participating at the farm level, but also expanding out to understand how women are being affected (or ignored) by value chain activity that occurs when rural communities are being linked with global marketing opportunities with the private sector.  Key questions include:

-How are women being integrated into supply chains?  What are the positions that women tend to occupy?  What are the differences in women’s roles as they relate to crop type, job type, market type?

-How can we create more equitable, gender-focused value-chain analysis to understand the impact on women when rural communities are partnered with the private sector for procurement?

-What kinds of skills/trainings could integrate women for higher income activity but be sensitive to the roles of child-raising and family?

Further reading:

FAO – Gender work

FAO- Gender and Food Security: Division of Labor.

FAO-  Gender and Food Security: Education, extension and communication

Women Farmers in the Developing World via The Huffington Post


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