Women make up over 50 per cent of the agricultural labour force in many sub-Saharan African countries. During the launch of the Status of Rural Women in Agri-food Systems Report, it was established that about half of the labour force in agriculture is female in several countries.
In general, women account for a greater share of agricultural employment at lower levels of economic development, as inadequate education, limited access to basic infrastructure and markets, high unpaid work burden and poor rural employment opportunities outside agriculture severely limit women’s opportunities for off-farm work.
The report stated that globally, 36 per cent of working women and 38 per cent of working men work in agri-food systems as of 2019. For both women and men, this represents a decline of about 10 percentage points since 2005, driven almost exclusively by a reduction in employment in primary agricultural production.
If half of the small-scale producers benefited from development interventions that focused on empowering women, it would significantly raise the incomes of an additional 58 million people and increase the resilience of an additional 235 million people.
Women are less likely to participate as entrepreneurs and independent farmers and are engaged in the production of less lucrative crops. Often, women are unpaid family workers or casual workers in agriculture.
The gender gap in land productivity between female- and male-managed farms of the same size is 24 per cent. On average, women earn 18.4 per cent less than men in wage employment in agriculture; this means that women receive 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Amb. Carla Mucavi, Kenya Country Representative, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that in Sub- Saharan Africa 66% of Women ‘s employment is in the agro-food system compared with 60% of men’s employment. Despite this, Women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes in agricultural wage employment.
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“They have less secure tenure over land, less access to credit and training, and have to work with technology designed by men without them in mind.,” she says
Amb. Mucavi says that this is a significant proportion that cannot be ignored. Despite their over-representation in food retail, women trade in less-profitable commodities than men and tend to sell lower volumes of food products than male retailers.
As a result, female retailers report significantly lower monthly profits than male retailers.
Hon. Harsame Kello, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development stated that during the United Nations Food Systems Summit, Kenya identified four critical pathways towards the transformation of the food system. Key among this is increasing the number of young people and women with access to productive resources they require to thrive in our food systems.
“Our agri-food systems today are faced with many shocks. When these happen, women are most affected since they are the major actors in agri-food systems,” he said.
Women also face a lot of challenges and it is important that they look at these challenges, and analyse the multiple sources of inequality that constrain women’s participation in agri-food systems while at the same time proposing the solutions through policies and approaches that support gender equality and women’s empowerment.