Women Farmers – One of Key Factors for Reducing Hunger in the World?

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

Women play a vital role in advancing agricultural development and food security. They participate in many aspects of rural life – in paid employment, trade and marketing, as well as many unpaid activities, such as tending to crops and animals, collecting water and wood for fuel, and caring for family members. Women also manage household consumption and food preparation. But women face many constraints in the multiple activities they pursue – less land ownership, access to credit, extension and other services, and ability to hire labor. Too often, these constraints as well as women’s current and potential contributions to agricultural production go unrecognized. Women play a vital role in advancing agricultural development and food security. Women are a significant portion of the agricultural labor force, constituting an average of 43% in developing countries, with ranges from about 20% in Latin America to 50% in Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Women are the majority of the agricultural labor force in over 30 countries. In the European Union 42% of those who work in the agricultural sector are women. However, they also own their own farms only in a few rare cases. Only every fifth farm in the EU is managed by a woman and this level is currently at a mere 8% in Germany. European agriculture has been - and indeed still is - a male dominated sector. But women are just as efficient agricultural producers as men and can achieve similar yields when given equal access to resources, including training and services. On the other hand, in America more than 30%, nearly 1 million, are women.

Some of the positions women are holding in agriculture include: CEO, general manager, public relations, marketing, purchasing, human resources, risk management, information technology, sales, landlord relations manager and data analysis. If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30%. This increase could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4% and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17%, up to 150 million people.