Women account for 43% of the agricultural labor force in all developing counties and up to 50% in Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In rural areas, women handle livestock; gather food and fuel wood; manage the water supply; grow crops for domestic consumption; and prepare, store and process food. Despite the central role they play in agriculture, as “invisible actors in development” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN), rural women face many challenges and obstacles preventing them from realizing their full potential in the agricultural and food production arenas. Globally, women in agriculture and rural areas lack decision-making power in both the domestic and community spheres and have less access than men to resources, assets, services, opportunities, health care, credit and education.
The pervasive gender gap in agriculture must be addressed by empowering rural women. According to UN’s WomenWatch, if rural women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30%, raising the total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4%, in turn reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17%.
VVLead Fellows leading initiatives for rural women will share their perspectives over the coming days in a blog mini-series that confronts the local challenges symptomatic of global ills and the solutions that they are championing.
Read Nanci Obi’s blog on rural women farmer’s in Liberia.