Empowering Women in Ag: Challenges the Gender face

By Matanat Rashid

Fri, 21 Sep 2018

A few years ago, during Super Bowl, there was an agriculture-focused ad aired. The idea behind that ad was to pay tribute to the millions of hardworking people associated with the industry. The commercial showed pictures of farmers and ranchers but only a few of them were women. This, of course, was interpreted by some as symbolic of the battle women across the country are engaging in as they carry out an increasing role in a field that has been traditionally dominated by men.

Denise O’Brien who has been farming with her husband for almost 40 years in Iowa has her say on that farming commercial, stating: “That image of (a man) is so embedded in all of us that it’s hard to imagine that women are part of farming when they show an ad like that. On one hand, it’s a really nice tribute to agriculture, but on the other hand, they’re missing more than half the population that’s involved with it”

For decades women were merely viewed as sidekicks to their farmer sons or husbands. But things have changed, and so has the presence of women in ag, along with its empowerment.

According to the U.S. Agriculture Department’s (USDA) latest census, the government found women farm operators increased 19% from the last time, far outpacing the 7% increase in the number of farmers overall. Moreover, the industry would see a significant rise in the number of women who will own the farmland. As per the estimations, more than 200 million acres of farmland in the United States will change hands by 2027, with women potentially owning a majority of the land.

Even with the growing number of women members in the National FFA Organisation, there is still a growing concern regarding the attention women are attracting from the higher authorities. Many of these members believe they are not receiving the attention that reflects the more active role they are playing. Similarly, the women who are working in the fields have to face severe issues as compared to the men.

Challenges Women Farmers Face:

Land Access:

Women make up 30% if not 50 % of the agricultural labour force across the world. They produce 60% of the crops yet own nothing but 5% of the land. Most of the land they own is less fertile and doesn’t produce the desired results. This is a clear illustration that there is a lack of security in ownership of the land. The industry could become productive by 30-40% if women are given the same access as men.

Funding:

In farming, women tend to struggle a lot when it comes to securing funds for their endeavours. The funding organisations have their insecurities when it comes to funding a land owned by a woman. Furthermore, women are not technically aware of the funding procedures as yet, and no one is willing to assist them with the ins and outs regarding the funding. Women only get 7% of the national agricultural extension services which doesn’t complement the hard work they put.

Technological Advancements:

80% of the latest technologies like ploughs, cultivators, planters, harvesters and irrigation equipment are aimed at a male-specific audience. Women farmers undoubtedly have some reservations about the technological advancements but the manufacturers are further damaging their confidence by designing technology that only benefits male farmers.

Marketing:

Women lack information and research which restrict their marketing opportunities. The College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences – UC Davis tried to conduct workshops in that regard but it didn’t prompt much success. Women, at most, make it to the local markets where the rates are lower than the main, urban markets. Agricultural workshops should address this issue as it would benefit both the market and the women farmers.

Poor Infrastructure:

Not having access to the transport and logistics damage the mobility of the women farmers, and therefore most of their farm’s production is squandered. Given the right platform and infrastructure, these women would be able to sell more of their farm’s production in a short time. It will help the profitability and sustainability at the same time.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said, “if women worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, they could boost agricultural production and help lift 100 to 150 million people out of hunger.” We cannot end hunger and poverty without empowering both men and women farmers.

With the main objective of tackling agriculture’s main challenges, Challenge Advisory has designed a 2-day ag workshop in San Francisco, California.

From Understanding the modern farmer, to Precision Ag’s ROI through to Biotechnology and Women in ag, AG 4.0 has gathered more than 40 speakers and 600 farmers who will all discuss how to solve the main issues currently present in the industry.

If you are a farmer you can join us for free, just make sure to claim your free ticket here: www.challenge.org/ag40

Media Contact

Maria Onofrio

Project Director

monofrio@challenge.org


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Matanat Rashid

matanat59@gmail.com

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