Notes to broadcasters on women and farming

    | January 9, 2012

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    Our story from Madagascar highlights the benefits of women becoming involved in agriculture. In most of Africa – and indeed around the world – women are already responsible for the bulk of the family’s food production.  But there are often traditions and customs which dictate, or at least strongly influence, which crops women can and do grow.

    For facts and figures, stories from around the world, and links to further resources on gender and agriculture, see:

    The 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development is available at:

    For your reference, here are two recent news reports on gender, agriculture and development:

    -“Give women the seeds and they can feed the world:

    -“Gender equality: Why involving men is crucial:

    Women make up the majority of small-scale, subsistence farmers in the developing world. Gender inequality in agriculture is a problem not just for women but for the agricultural sector, for food security, and for society as a whole. The Food and Agriculture Organization stated that, if women in developing countries worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 per cent and lift 100-150 million people out of hunger.

    Here are some quick facts on women in sub-Saharan Africa:

    -Women are responsible for 70 to 80 per cent of household food production
    -Women are responsible for obtaining 90 per cent of water, wood, and fuel
    -55 per cent of primary students not enrolled in school are girls
    -Nearly twice as many women over age 15 are illiterate compared to men
    -Women are 1.6 times more likely than men to be infected by HIV
    -77 per cent of all HIV-positive women live in sub-Saharan Africa

    (Sources: The Hunger Project, IFPRI, UNAIDS, UNFPA)

    Here are three recent reports on these issues:

    “African women farmers, an untapped goldmine”:

    “Female Farmers Overcome Barriers to Feed Africa”:

    “100 Years of International Women’s Days: African Women Farmers Struggle for Fairness”:

    IPS News hosts The Gender Wire, which is full of resources and stories on women in the news. You can subscribe to their newsletter here:

    Farm Radio International has produced many scripts on women, gender and agriculture. Take a look at these two scripts;

    – Gender mainstreaming in farmers’ co-operative: Groups in Ghana achieve food security for small-scale farmers (Package 94, Script 10, December 2011).

    – Women produce most of our food (Package 70, Script 1, March 2004).

    You can browse the complete list here:

    Read again the stories and links in the special issue of Farm Radio Weekly for International Women’s Day, March 2011:

    Gender and the roles of women and men in professional and domestic life is always a rich topic for discussion and debate. Broadcasters could produce programs on this topic to provoke debate and raise awareness. Don’t forget to talk to men in their families or communities to get their perspective.

    You might want to find out whether there are limitations on the ways in which women are or can be involved in farming. Talk to farmers, extension workers, and, especially, women!

    You might start by asking what kinds of work women usually do in the community. Depending on the response, you could follow up with questions about what crops women grow, and what crops women do not grow and why.

    You could ask if there are traditions that specify which crops and which kinds of farming work women can be involved with. For example, women might be allowed to grow vegetables and beans, but not cash crops. They may also be allowed to raise small but not large livestock. Sometimes the rules are rigid; at other times, they are not.  You could talk to elders in the community and ask them about the origins of these traditions. You could also ask whether people – including young farmers – think these traditions are still relevant, or whether it is time for things to change.

    Finally, you might ask whether people think there are some benefits to women contributing to the family income by farming.

    This story also mentions SRI, the System for Rice Intensification. For more information on SRI, see the following reports:

    “Systems of Rice Intensification: Achieving more with less – A new way of rice cultivation”:

    “SRI-Rice Online”:

    “How to help rice plants grow better and produce more: Teach yourself and others”: