Women play a critical role in the future of food security. There is an increasing interest and participation of women in agricultural activities as trends toward improved efficiency and environmental sustainability continue. Women also provide the effects by working together around the table, rather than apart from each other, in their respective communities and making decisions for better opportunities for themselves, their families and others.
The global population is growing and, for various reasons, the percentage of people living in urban areas is increasing. As a result, there are fewer people looking to offset their food supply through agriculture. The female workforce has historically provided this relief network for families across the world, but their contributions have not been met with adequate acknowledgement. When women contribute to agriculture, the entire family benefits from the extra nutrition from their produce and by having another member providing income to earn cash.
Challenges Women in Agriculture Face
Although rural women in farms and households in general play significant roles in food production, processing and feeding families, it must be mentioned that they perform these functions whilst facing numerous constraints and as such are hardly ever able to attain their full potential with respect to the substantial efforts they put into the agricultural sector.
1. Lack of Infrastructure
All attempts to develop agriculture would be useless if this problem is not solved. A large number of women farmers operate at the subsistence and smallholder level, and sadly, a disproportionate share of the agricultural production is left in their hands. With little or no access to modern improved technologies, there is a huge problem to secure them reasonable investments in capital, inputs and labor.
This is why we as Synnefa are making this our responsibility to help women farming groups to access agri-technology solutions such as greenhouses, Farmshields and smart drip irrigation systems for their food production.
2. Access to Finance
Poor access to financing is another major setback faced by women in agriculture. Credit is an extremely useful resource to farmers due to the fact that their production activities are most often seasonal in nature and a considerable lag occurs between the time they incur costs and the time that they are able to generate income from their produce.
Several researchers have identified a number of reasons why women farmers are still not able to access credit easily, some of the most relevant ones include;
Lack of collateral requirements
High transaction cost
Limited education and mobility
Irregularity of employment
The nature of women's businesses limit their ability to obtain credit.
3. Access To Agricultural Inputs
Difficulty in accessing key agricultural inputs such as improved seedlings, fertilizers, pesticides, machinery, etc is often as a direct result of the poor financial situation these women are faced with. Women farmers have indicated that they are unable to use improved inputs due to their high cost in the open market.
Together, these factors place restrictions on access to input and output market information and have a negative impact on women's productivity.
4. Gender Division of Labour in Agriculture
Gender division of labour in agriculture is a common practice that has often been viewed by several people as a limiting factor for most women. In most parts of Africa, there has always been a strict division of labour by gender in agriculture. Furthermore, cash crops and export crops are often described as “male crops,” while subsistence crops are termed “female crops”.
The major reason for this categorization is that women are responsible for feeding the family and thus prefer to grow subsistence crops for household consumption. On the other hand, men in agriculture are breadwinners of their homes and as such are expected to grow cash and export crops that will generate higher income for the family.
5. Participation in Farm Management, Agricultural Policy Deficiencies and other Socio-Economic Factors
Like in most patriarchal societies, socio-economic conditions, among other factors, affect the decision-making role of women in agriculture.
Although it is obvious that the low economic status of rural women constrains their opportunities for extensive participation in agricultural production, other factors such as their assigned roles as home makers, caretakers, child bearers contribute to this constraint.
Women are an essential part of the farming structure, they have been largely excluded by policy makers who have ignored this gender dimension at a high cost to agriculture and to gender equity within. A possible determinant for low levels of female representation in policy formulation could be traced to the fact that in rural areas, men tend to have higher levels of education compared to women and as such are more likely to be chosen to fill such positions at government level.
When it comes to agriculture, women are not only an integral part of the process but also a vital force behind its success. Their importance in agriculture cannot be understated. Female farmers have been instrumental in feeding the world with their hard work and dedication. Without them, there would be no agriculture and without agriculture, there would be no food for all of us!
Women farmers are not only being held back because they are women, but they also faced the challenges felt by all small scale farmers. Growth in small-scale agriculture is two to four times more effective at reducing hunger and poverty than any other sector, and women farmers are playing a central role. Now it is more important than ever to empower women farmers to ensure resilience to climate change and to end world hunger.
As the world population grows, so too does our need for agriculture. Furthermore, in order for agriculture to progress and become more efficient we need more women to take part in it. By understanding the obstacles that prevent women from participating in agriculture, we can begin working to correct them, which should lead to better food security for everyone.
If there was a perfect time too empower women farmers, it is now.