Women still face overwhelming equality challenges within the agricultural sector and this issue has been highlighted even more following the recent pandemic. The social and economic gaps that have formed between men and women in agriculture and agribusiness have not been addressed.

Women are being disadvantaged by these challenges and it is preventing them from becoming the thriving farmers they strive to be, pulling them out of poverty, and creating a better future for them. Women face significant discrimination when it comes to land ownership, equal pay, access to credit, financial services, etc.

Did you know that women make up almost 50% of Africa’s agricultural workforce, yet they only produce a third per unit of land, compared to men?

This isn’t because they are less able, less resourceful, or less motivated, but simply because they are being disregarded within the agricultural sector. Women in agriculture should be encouraged, yet they are being discouraged and disabled due to this gap.

The challenges that women face within the agricultural sector emerge due to various reasons. A good start to closing the gap would be to expose and discredit the three main misconceptions:

woman with fruit

1. Women do not play significant roles in agriculture

Because women’s actions are rarely acknowledged within the agricultural sector, they are often deemed to play an insignificant role. The work women do as smallholder farmers are often considered to be part of their “domestic chores” and their contributions are seen as expected, secondary, or lacking self-driven initiative. 

A lack of recognition and appreciation further erodes the confidence and motivation of established and prospective female agribusiness professionals. 

2. Women are not a profitable consumer market 

This is thankfully starting to change as companies operating within different stages of the value chain have recently started taking part in gender-inclusive approaches to engage with customers, which includes female farmers. Women who have for example previously struggled to get input and resources from big roleplayers now benefit from these programs. As the economic power and mobility of women continues to increase globally, we’ll begin to see a more prominent shift toward catering to this previously overlooked market segment. 

3. Men do not benefit from gender-based programmes

There is a certain bias surrounding gender-related programs within the agricultural sector. Many believe that these programs only target and benefit women. This is not the case, as these programs aim to close the gap between men and women resulting in benefits for both genders. A more inclusive value chain helps to expand opportunities for both men and women and encourages cooperation to a greater extent. Greater cooperation also results in a more robust agri-value chain that can resist the growing risk of climate shocks and logistical issues.

benefits of closing gender gaps figure

Figure 2: (IFC, 2017) Benefits of closing gender gaps

The figure above indicates several benefits businesses could gain from focusing on closing the current gender gap within the sector and uplifting women. Investing in women in all the stages of the value chain contributes to addressing global challenges such as food security and societal instability.

Some other key factors holding women back from achieving their full potential within agriculture are:
1.) Unequal pay for equal work
2.) The lack of strong networks and mentors
3.) Less access to productive resources and services

Since women have less access to resources and services that are required by agricultural producers, this often results in women having to manage significantly smaller farms and receive a salary of up to 16% less than men.

Although women are still not on an equal playing field the worldwide effort to achieve gender equality is gaining momentum. The reality is that women still face the biased opinion that farming is a man’s job. In order to be able to reach a point where gender roles in agriculture are completely equal there are three key priorities that need to be addressed:

• Improving structured education and training for women
• Rural safety initiatives
• Access to markets and resources by women

Although we still have a long way to go, women in the agricultural sector can be optimistic about the fact that steady progress is being made and that the sector is becoming more inclusive. There is a bright future awaiting our women in agriculture!

IFC (2017). Three misconceptions about women in agribusiness that hold companies back. [online] Medium. Available at: https://ifc-org.medium.com/three-misconceptions-about-women-in-agribusiness-that-hold-companies-back-9a003b55a2d5 [Accessed 5 Jan. 2022].

For more information on our Agribusiness programmes, send an email to international@bsn.eu.

Certificate in Entrepreneurship for Women in Agribusiness 

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