Women In Agriculture: Changing the Landscape for Female Farmers
Though women have always played a significant role in the agricultural landscape, in recent years that landscape appears to be changing. Women are clearly acquiring greater roles both in capacity and in numbers. At the same time, women are gaining wider recognition for their roles in agriculture. As the numbers of women and awareness of this increases, the important role they play in food production and distribution it is becoming apparent to a wider audience. Though this important issue has come to light in recent years, there is much work to be done in order to fully recognize women and the importance they play in our agriculture industry.
This is an important social topic to explore. Because PowerHouse Growers is run by two women, we know that women in agriculture play a significant role and should be recognized for their commitment to food security and their dedication to sustainability. Women around the world make up the agricultural landscape. They may come from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds; they may be involved in widely varying types of agriculture, but one thing they all have in common is that they are women facing similar challenges and struggles in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Additionally, many of these women share the same goals of achieving recognition and advancement for themselves and their peers.
History of Gender in Agriculture
Historically, the agricultural industry has been seen as a male-dominated industry, both in terms of income and influence. In developing nations, which still rely heavily on agricultural production as their primary economic propeller, women are the faces seen in the fields. They work long hours and are often times underpaid for the work they do. These women are driven to provide food for their children as well as to provide better opportunities for their children to attend school and get the medical attention they need.
The role of women in this setting, is essentially to not only relieve hunger but to provide proper nourishment and a balance of health. Additionally, its now widely accepted that the income earned by women is more likely to be spent on food for the family than the income earned by men. This is why the agricultural gender gap that has been created in terms of income disparity and developmental opportunities, must be narrowed if we want to solve our global food crisis.
Closing the Agricultural Gender Gap
Women as a species are nurturers and naturally play an intrinsic role in food supply. It’s instinctual for a woman to take part in the decision making process of how food is grown, harvested, processed, distributed, and accessed by society. Women are the primary caregivers, responsible for the health and nutrition of their children, and often the community. This is an influential responsibility that ultimately shapes our future, significantly in terms of health, lifespan, and productivity.
In both Canada and the United States, women make up 30% of the Agricultural Industries in each county. Women as an intellectual and economic resources are enormously underutilized in such an important industry. By empowering women with opportunities to become more actively involved in policy making and decisions regarding resource distribution, we may begin to see better solutions arise surrounding our food security crisis.
The Role of Women in Agriculture
Women of influence at a grassroots level as well as on a global stage, are beginning to shed light on the central issues regarding our global food crisis. One of the major issues faced by female farmers in developing nations is the traditional and cultural barriers that prevent women from having legal rights over the land and output. For developing nations, there are international organizations such as the ICRW and FAO which provide economic and resource strategies to support female farmers. This type of support includes increasing access to financing and credit, developing technical skills, improving farming technologies, and assisting women with planning so as to set them up for success.
In North America, we are faced with an ongoing food justice issue whereby minority women suffer from a host of social problems created by inequality. Empowering these women to create enterprises out of food production is an important solution being talked about more and more. Women in food production have the ability to take control and engage in community health concerns, prevent the proliferation of food deserts, guide healthy child development, and create economic self-sufficiency for their families.
Leadership and Empowerment Organizations
The following are organizations throughout dedicated to supporting a woman’s role in agriculture:
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- Advancing Women Conference
- International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
- International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)
- Rural Women’s Studies Association (RWSA)
- Women Food & Ag Network (WFAN)