Agriculture & Food Security

The Issue: Women, Agriculture and Food Security

The face of agriculture around the globe is often female. In many of the world’s regions, women work alongside men in the fields that provide nourishment and income for their families. They contribute to commercial agriculture, which includes high-value products such as vegetables and cut flowers for local and export markets. In some societies, women also sell agricultural goods.

But more often than not, women’s contributions to the agricultural sector go unrecognized. Few small-scale women farmers are paid for their labor, and societal views of women's roles restrict women’s input in household decisions. Such beliefs also limit their access to land ownership, farm equipment and credit – all of which are needed to be economically successful. These barriers ultimately inhibit women’s ability to produce, and can make it difficult for them to escape poverty or provide food for their families.

Studies show that when impoverished countries improve their agricultural productivity, their economy grows. And when women farmers have the opportunity to earn and control income, they are more likely to focus their spending on their children’s nutrition, education and health. Women also are integral to alleviating hunger and malnutrition because they are primarily responsible for ensuring that food for their families is reliably available, accessible and nutritionally balanced.

Shifts in global policies, coupled with the recent food crisis and economic recession, have created a sense of urgency to improve food and agricultural productivity in low-income countries. It is critical that women are viewed as primary food providers for their families as well as key players in efforts to expand commercial agriculture to grow nations’ economies. Doing so also will improve the well-being of women, their families and their countries.

Our Role

ICRW has been examining for more than 30 years how disparities between women and men affect agricultural productivity and food security. Our research helps development organizations, policymakers and others find practical ways to enhance women’s roles in agricultural production and trade, thereby improving their incomes and livelihoods.

ICRW analyzes the differences between the responsibilities, limitations and interests of male and female farmers to design strategies that provide services, training and incomes. Our findings and recommendations help identify sound approaches that ensure efforts reach women as well as men. Ultimately, we aim to help farmers become competitive participants in the agricultural marketplace and reap the financial benefits.

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