Did you know that women have been the silent architects of agriculture for generations, cultivating crops, nurturing households, and sustaining entire communities? Yet, their contributions often remain unnoticed or undervalued.
Traditionally, women’s roles in farming were confined to subsistence farming and small-scale production. However, they’ve assumed a more prominent role in large-scale farming and agricultural decision-making over time. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women constitute about 43% of the global agricultural labor force, yet their potential remains untapped due to various barriers.
This blog aims to shed light on the critical role of women in agriculture and how empowering them can lead to transformative changes in farming communities.
The importance of empowering women in agriculture
Empowering women in agriculture is not just about gender equality; it’s about maximizing the potential of agricultural communities and driving sustainable development. The results are profound when women have equal access to resources and opportunities in agriculture. Research indicates that closing the gender gap in access to productive resources could boost farm yields by 20-30%. In practical terms, this means a significant increase in agricultural output, particularly in developing countries, where agriculture is a primary source of livelihood for many.
Moreover, empowering women in agriculture has far-reaching implications beyond the farm. Studies suggest that increasing women’s participation in agriculture could reduce hunger by 12-17%. This reduction in food insecurity stems from the improved productivity and efficiency brought about by women’s contributions.
Additionally, women uniquely tend to reinvest their income into their families and communities. Empowering women economically creates a multiplier effect, as these investments translate into better education, healthcare, and overall well-being for families and communities.
The ripple effect of empowering women in agriculture extends even further. When women are given the tools and resources they need to thrive in agriculture, they become agents of change within their communities. They serve as role models, mentors, and leaders, inspiring others to pursue their potential and contribute to the growth and prosperity of society as a whole. Thus, the importance of empowering women in agriculture cannot be overstated; it’s not just a matter of equality but a pathway to sustainable development and a brighter future for all.
Barriers to women’s empowerment in agriculture
Empowering women in agriculture is essential for sustainable development, yet numerous barriers impede their full participation and contribution to the sector.
Limited access to credit and financial resources
Financial institutions often require collateral that women may not possess, making it difficult for them to secure loans or invest in agricultural ventures. This lack of financial support hampers their ability to expand their operations or adopt innovative practices that could enhance productivity.
Cultural norms and traditional gender roles
These factors significantly hinder women’s empowerment in agriculture. In many societies, women are expected to prioritize household duties over economic activities, relegating them to subservient roles within the farming household. As a result, women often have limited decision-making power regarding agricultural activities and investments.
Additionally, discriminatory practices, such as unequal access to land ownership and inheritance rights, further exacerbate gender disparities in agriculture. Without secure land tenure, women cannot make long-term investments in their farms or access government support programs effectively.
The lack of access to training and extension services
The lack of training and extension services inhibits women’s adoption of modern farming techniques and technologies. Extension services often fail to reach women farmers due to logistical constraints or cultural barriers, depriving them of valuable knowledge and skills that could enhance their productivity.
Addressing these barriers requires a multi-faceted approach that involves policy interventions to promote gender equality, targeted investments in women’s education and training, and initiatives to challenge traditional gender norms and stereotypes. By removing these barriers, we can unlock the full potential of women in agriculture and pave the way for inclusive and sustainable rural development.
Success stories of women’s empowerment in agriculture in Kenya
There are numerous success stories of women who, once empowered, have become catalysts for change in their communities.
For example, Purity Gachanga is a 65-year-old farmer from Embu County who has fought eroding soils, enriched farmland, and increased and diversified food production. She shares her methods with 60 women, making up a ‘merry-go-round’ group that meets regularly in her front garden. They each contribute a small sum of money, forming their communal savings system. Many have put the money towards their farms but use it for other things they want, like blankets, utensils, or chairs.
Caroline Gathigia Murange, a 28-year-old farmer from Kajiado South, Kenya, turned to small-scale farming after struggling to secure stable employment despite her BSc in Agriculture and Human Ecology Extension from Egerton University. She joined Cohort 1 of Wezesha in November 2022 and was invited to work as a casual laborer at the Wezesha demo farm. The program expanded her network, connecting her with agricultural field officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and other agri-sectors.
Rose is a farmer who used to struggle to make ends meet with her small farm. With the help of Rural Women in Modern Agriculture (RWIMA), Rose was able to improve her yields, access new markets, and start a successful business selling fruits and vegetables.
Turkana woman: A woman who started chicken rearing and gained a sense of ownership. She can now provide for her family and has become a role model for other women in her community.
The future of women in agriculture
The future of agriculture must include women at its core. With continued empowerment efforts and the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, we can expect a future where women play an equal part in shaping the world’s food systems.
Women’s empowerment is crucial to achieving several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including ending poverty and hunger, achieving gender equality, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
Empowering women in agriculture is not just about gender equality; it’s also about improving agricultural productivity, reducing hunger and poverty, and promoting sustainable development. Let us continue supporting and advocating for initiatives that empower women in agriculture, for they hold the key to a more prosperous, sustainable, and equitable world.