Women in Agriculture

In Africa and large parts of Asia, the majority of the agricultural labour force in small-scale and subsistence farming is comprised of women. The IAASTD describes this as 'the feminisation of agriculture'. "The feminization of agriculture model in East and South Asia and the Pacific is de­termined by two major factors. First, compared to men, women have much poorer access to and control over pro­ductive resources and they have inadequate access to public services, such as training, extension and credit. Technolo­gies are often designed for irrigated land in favorable areas where male farmers predominate, with poor farmers, mainly women, lacking access to credit and appropriate technolo­gies. Second, rural society structure makes it difficult for all members of the household to migrate, since cities have even more limited resources for masses of asset-poor, who lack not only income but production-related assets, human capabilities, social capital and physical assets. Women con­stitute the majority of this group and when men leave to become temporary laborers in cities, they are left behind to take care of the land, children and elderly. Thus, they have the compounded burden of productive and reproduc­tive work." (East and South Asia and the Pacific, p. 180) However, in many countries in the global South, women’s rights remain severely restricted. Cultural barriers frequently prevent women from exercising their right to own property, or their right to access water, livestock and machinery. Access to education, information and political participation is also restricted, whilst opening a personal bank account or taking out a loan is often not possible. According to the IAASTD, women can become empowered in small-scale agriculture and regional development systems oriented towards local markets and supply, thus disproportionately increasing their chances of escaping hunger and misery.  >>more

Feminisation of Agriculture

Most women in sub-Saharan Africa have multiple responsibilities. They produce food, harvest and weed on men’s fields, and process the harvest. They also provide firewood and water, and manage the household.
Research conducted in Kenya shows that, on average, households can experience a 68% decline in food production following the death of a male head of household - even though women are largely responsible for agriculture production.
In order to cope with the financial burden of AIDS for example, assets can be sold, loans go into default and household collateral decreases.
As a result, the affected households are no longer deemed creditworthy. Following the death of a male head of household, relatives of the deceased frequently seize property from the widow, causing a further decline in agricultural production (Sub-Saharan Africa, p. 51-52).


Facts & Figures

On average, women comprise 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. If they had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30%.

Due to legal and cultural constraints in land inheritance, ownership and use, less than 20% of land- holders are women. In North Africa and West Asia, women represent fewer than 5% of all agricultural land owners while across sub-Saharan Africa, they make up 15%. It is worth noting that this average masks wide variations between countries, from under 5% in Mali to over 30% in Botswana. Latin America has the highest share of female agricultural holders, which exceeds 25% in Chile, Ecuador and Panama.

Women are of vital importance to rural economies. Rearing poultry and small livestock and growing food crops, they are responsible for some 60% to 80% of food production in developing countries.

In the 97 countries assessed by the FAO, female farmers only received 5% of all agricultural extension services. Worldwide, only 15% of those providing these services are women. Just 10% of total aid provided for agriculture, forestry and fishing goes to women.

In many farming communities, women are the main custodians of knowledge on crop varieties. In some regions of sub-Saharan Africa, women may cultivate as many as 120 different plants alongside the cash crops that are managed by men.


Civil Society

  • MADRE international women’s human rights organisation that works in partnership with community-based women's organisations
  • Equality Now Ending violence and discrimination against women and girls
  • Wide Network Globalising Gender Equality and Social Justice
  • WOCAN Women Organising for Change in Agriculture & NRM
  • Navdanya Diverse Women for Diversity echoes women's voices from the local and grassroots level


Video: Closing the gap between men and women in agriculture

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Funding Female Farmers for a Less Hungry World


  • UNEP Gender EducationUNEP Gender Education
  • UNEP Gender Labor ForceUNEP Gender Labor Force
  • UNEP Gender Extension StaffUNEP Gender Extension Staff
  • UNEP Gender HouseholdsUNEP Gender Households
  • UNEP Gender Work ResourcesUNEP Gender Work Resources
  • UNEP Gender Women LaborUNEP Gender Women Labor
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Unterstützer von www.weltagrarbericht.de biovision Verlag der Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V. Demeter Greenpeace Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung Eine Welt Stiftung Die Grünen, Europäische Freie Allianz Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst NABU - Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. Misereor Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand
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