Nelly Bassily | October 22, 2012
In most of Africa – and indeed around the world – women are responsible for the bulk of family food production. 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 UN Food and Agriculture Organization stated that, if women in developing countries had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 per cent, which would lift 100-150 million people out of hunger.
This week’s news stories present some of the challenges and opportunities faced by women farmers. Some issues are universal to all farmers, such as the challenge of crop disease and the opportunity to earn additional income through adding value and group marketing. But some challenges, such as traditional land laws, are specifically discriminatory to women.
Following are some information sources and ideas that you may find useful in exploring the roles and realities of women in agriculture:
For facts and figures, stories from around the world, and links to further resources on gender and agriculture, see: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/idrw/ and
The 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development is available at: http://go.worldbank.org/CQCTMSFI40
Here are some quick facts on women in sub-Saharan Africa:
-Women are responsible for up to 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
-Compared to men, nearly twice as many women over age 15 are illiterate
-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)
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: http://ipsnews.net/genderwire/
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). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/94-10script_en.asp
– Women produce most of our food (Package 70, Script 1, March 2004). http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/70-1script_en.asp
You can browse the complete list of scripts on gender and development here: http://farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/gender.asp
Read the stories and view the links from these special issues of Farm Radio Weekly marking International Women’s Day:
-March 2008: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-13/
-March 2009: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-57/
-March 2010: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-102/
-March 2011: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-147/
-March 2012: http://weekly.farmradio.org/topic/issue-191/
Gender and the role of women and men in professional and domestic life is always a rich topic for discussion. Broadcasters could produce programs on this topic to provoke debate and raise awareness. Don’t forget to talk to men to get their perspectives.
Find out whether there are limitations on the ways in which women are or can be involved in farming in your area. 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, 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 benefits to women contributing to the family income by farming.