Great article from our partners at Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
Without a significant boost in financial support for women farmers, there is little hope of one day achieving zero hunger.
That’s a key message of a new report from Canadian Foodgrains Bank, Equal Harvests–How Investing in Agricultural Development Can Empower Women.
The report is part of the Foodgrains Bank’s Good Soil campaign, urging the Canadian government to strengthen its support for small-scale farmers.
It points out that in much of the developing world, women and girls spend many hours working in their fields, walking long distances for drinking water and firewood, preparing food, and caring for young children and sick or elderly family members. They often run small businesses to earn extra income for their families.
All of this is done with little help from others.
“Before I started working on this report, I knew that many small-scale women farmers carry a heavy burden of farm and household work, but I didn’t realize just how difficult it is for women in developing countries to truly flourish as farmers,” says Carol Thiessen, senior policy advisor at the Foodgrains Bank and author of the report.
“They generally work far longer each day than male farmers. And much of their work is unpaid and undervalued by others.”
Thiessen notes that many women lack access to important farming resources, such as land, good seeds, financial services and technical advice. They lack the time to invest in their farms. They also often aren’t allowed to make decisions on the farm, including how income they earn is used.
It paints a harsh picture, but Thiessen notes that there is hope.
“The good news is there’s growing awareness that the discrimination many women farmers face in developing countries is unacceptable,” she says.
“We know that if women had the same access to resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by up to 30 percent. That would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million.”
Equal Harvests argues that good investments in agriculture can empower women in the following ways:
1. Improving access to productive resources (land, water, inputs, labour) and services (finance, knowledge, markets) for women.
2. Improving agency—women’s control over assets and their decision-making power should be considered in agricultural interventions. This means working with communities, including men, to better value women.
3. Collective action—agricultural investment should include a strong role for groups, as women can overcome discrimination more effectively when they work together.
The report calls for increased aid for agriculture, particularly to support women farmers.
After the global food security crisis in 2007-08, wealthy countries, including Canada, greatly increased their aid for agriculture. But since then, Canada’s support has declined 30 percent from a high of about $450 million per year between 2009 and 2011.
“Canada’s new government has a strong commitment to empowering women. We see increasing aid for small-scale women farmers as an important way to embody that commitment,” says Foodgrains Bank Executive Director Jim Cornelius.
“These investments can make a lasting impact on women, their families and the global community.”
Equal Harvests is the fourth and final report in a series from the Foodgrains Bank on the benefits of agricultural development. Earlier reports made economic, nutrition and environmental cases for aid investment in agriculture in developing countries.
–Amanda Thorsteinsson, Communications Officer