Women in Agriculture

According to the Food and Agriculture  Organization of the United Nations (FAO),  “Women play a significant role in  agriculture, the world over. About 70% of the  agricultural workers, 80% of food producers, and  10% of those who process basic foodstuffs are  women and they also undertake 60 to 90% of the  rural marketing; thus making up more than two third of the workforce in agricultural production  (FAO, 1985). 

Women are known and acknowledged, all over the  world, to make enormous contributions to the  agricultural sector and rural economies, especially  in developing countries. Women are involved in  producing crops, tending livestock, processing  and preparing food, working for wages in  agribusiness enterprises, and engaging in trade  and marketing. 

The influence of women is strong in the use of  eggs, milk and poultry meat for home consumption  and they often have control over marketing and the  income from these products. Perhaps for this  reason, poultry and small-scale dairy projects  have been popular investments for  development projects aiming to  improve the lot of rural women. In  some countries, small-scale pig  production is also dominated by  women. But despite the fact that the role  and participation of women in  agriculture is well recognized and  clearly significant, there hasn’t  

been much documentation about  the engagement and investment  of women in the agribusiness  value chain beyond production  and processing. Much as these  w o m e n s tri v e t o b e m o r e  productive and relevant in the  

agribusiness sector, they often experience a  multitude of problems. 

1. Lack of access to land. Women in agriculture in  many communities in Africa suffer the lack of  a c c e s s t o l a n d / p r o p e r t y . C e r t a i n  cultural/traditional practices deny women  ownership of land/property. It is said that women  produce up to 80% of the crops but own only about  1% of the land. This deprivation has led to the poor  recognition of the contributions of women in the  agribusiness sector. It is believed that if women  are given equal access to agricultural land, there  will be increased production, productivity and  sustainability in the sector. 

2. Poor access to funding. Women face a lot of  challenges getting finance for their agribusiness,  from funding availability to affordability. Apart from  the fact that many women agropreneurs are not  financially literate to meet the borrowing criteria of  the financial institutions, the major problem  actually comes from the high interest rates  charged, making the funds unaffordable. It is  believed that women’ s contribution to

agribusiness will experience a huge boost were  they to have sufficient funding for their business  with less stress. 

3. Lack of/Poor infrastructure. Africa generally, is  bedeviled with poor infrastructure and most of the  women engaged in agribusiness are located in the  rural areas where the roads are unmotorable,  making transportation and logistics difficult and  expensive. Other infrastructure needs include  security, energy and power supply, extension  ser v i ces , s torage fac i l ities , improved  technologies, etc, all of which are lacking or  epileptic at best, to the women. With improved  infrastructure, the women in agribusiness would  produce more cheaply and efficiently and  s igni fi cantl y inc rease produc ti v ity and  industrialization while reducing poverty in the  society.  

4. Lack of access to markets. Majority of the  women in agribusiness have no access to market 

research information and data and this has limited  their ability and capacity to take advantage of  market opportunities. In addition, there are no  support systems available to assess the quality of  their products so opportunities to tap into large  markets and export completely elude them. 

5. Lack access to technology. Agribusiness has  made a lot of progress through the use of  technology. The production sub-sector has grown

through mechanization; and processing to distribution now managed using sophisticated equipment and machinery. But many women have no knowledge on how to use these technologies and conduct their business using rudimentary methods. This has kept many of them at the subsistence level, leaving little or no room for advancement.

  1. Diversion of income from women. New techniques in agriculture, particularly those involving commercialization, have been discovered to “shift economic control, employment and profit from women to men” (ILO), causing increased suffering for families. This is because studies have found that, in general, income controlled by women benefits families more than income controlled by men (UN).
    Without a concerted effort to empower the women who make up about 50% of the population, African nations will continue to wallow in poverty and deprivation. Women are known to be wealth creators and their contributions over the centuries, even with no recognition, have put food on the tables of millions of families. They can do much more, and better too, if only attention will be paid to the challenges discussed above.