The Role of Women in Agriculture

by Alicia Lee, Bonner Intern

Transplanting Traditions ’ Zar Ree Wei: incredible farmer and mother of 6!

Transplanting Traditions’ Zar Ree Wei: incredible farmer and mother of 6!

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and that has us thinking about ways to honor and acknowledge the contributions of mothers and women worldwide. You can (and should!) celebrate Mother’s Day by calling or sending a card or flowers your own mom or other women who have had an influence on your life for all their support. This year, though, we invite you to celebrate Mother’s Day by learning about the crucial role that mothers and women play in agriculture and farming, and how that impacts society throughout the world.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that women represent 43% of the agricultural labor force worldwide. The same study shows that the majority of those women are relegated to the lowest paid, least secure positions, the ones with the worst labor conditions.

Why is this?

Why are women internationally dismissed to inferior labor positions in farming?

Obviously, there is more than one answer, but here is one shocking fact: in roughly 90 countries, women are outright prohibited from owning land. This prevents large swaths of women from being able to support their families by operating their own farms.  Even in places where owning land is “legal,” women are often denied loans that could help them buy it or invest in better, more efficient farming technology that would increase crops and allow them to turn a profit from farming.  

What if this weren’t the case?

The World Economic Forum found that female farmers reinvest 90% of the money they earn back into their farms and their communities, leading to greater levels of food security and increased opportunities for generations to come. The Forum also found that countries where women enjoyed greater property rights had lower levels of domestic abuse because greater financial independence allows women to leave abusive relationships. Women in agriculture - specifically women who possess their own farms - are the gatekeepers to a better future for many communities worldwide.

A better future in terms of improved nutrition, increased educational achievement, and a reduction in domestic violence can all start through supporting female farmers. You can participate in this crucial global change by checking out the Closing the Crop Gap website which provides more information of global agricultural gender disparities and various ways to get involved today.

Want to do something?

Yes, the research mentioned here is focused internationally, but you can address this issue in your very own community. This can be as simple as getting out to your local farmers market and buying from the female farmers in your own hometown. Or you can purchase a CSA through Farmer Foodshare’s partner Transplanting Traditions, which directly supports female refugee farmers by buying their produce and then donating some of it back into the refugee community. Learn more about that program here.

You also can find more in depth information on the status of women in agriculture in the following sources: