Women entrepreneurs contribute to the transformation of the global food security to drive economic growth, said Busani Bafana of IPS (Inter Press Service), a news agency. Unfortunately, they have to work twice as hard as their male peers to succeed in the agriculture industry.
Entrepreneur and Director of the Nairobi-based African Women in Agribusiness Network (AWAN) Beatrice Gakuba, told IPS, noted “Agriculture and agribusiness are generally perceived as run by men.” Gakuba, who manages a flower export business, added that female entrepreneurs experience more struggles in venturing to agricultural business than men, particularly with regard to finances due to entrenched socio-cultural beliefs and other factors.
In fact, more questions are asked when women want to grow their business or get a loan. Gakuba stated, “The relationship between money and human beings has always been handled by men.” But more women are reshaping agriculture and agri-business as an increasing number of women are employed in the said fields.
The Advancement of Women In Agriculture
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), a national, non-profit organization, asked the respondents if there were barriers in agriculture, to which 40.9% of women and 12.1% of men responded “yes.” On the other hand, more men (83.3%) than women (51.1%) believed that there were no barriers in agriculture. Only 4.5% of men and 8% of women were not sure.
Regarding the advancement of women in the corporate side of agriculture, the CAHRC did not state any secondary research that tackled on addressing barriers faced by women working in agri-business. The CAHRC assumed that women may face similar barriers when working in any corporate environment. Some of these roadblocks included preconceived perception of one’s capability by colleagues or senior management, few female role models at senior level, balancing career and family, and more. In rural areas, women faced more barriers such as remoteness of location, access to training, having an off-farm income to support their families, etc.
When the respondents were instructed to cite all barriers which they had either experienced or witnessed, only 5% of men said they had witnessed or experienced a lack of confidence. In women, the percentage skyrocketed to 95%. All female respondents said they had witnessed or experienced double standards. More women than men pursued off-farm income to support their families (98.5% versus 1.5%). Sadly, 98.4% of women Further, Women were more likely than men to experience or witness barriers to access to training (97.7% versus 2.3%).
96.3% of women said they lack mentoring opportunities in the field, unlike 3.7% of men. Likewise, female respondents said there were few women role models in the field unlike 3.2% of men. When the respondents asked if there was a need for action, 26.2% said there was a need for leadership tools and programs developed specifically for women (27.2% of women and 18.3% of men).
42.5% of respondents acknowledged that while there were enough tools and programs in place, there was still a need to ensure that women were taking up leadership roles in agriculture (46.9% of women and 8.3% of men). 6.5% said there were existing tools and programs that aided in the reduction of barriers in agriculture, with more men (10%) agreeing with this statement than women (6%). 24.9% of respondents said they do not see any issue with opportunities for women to move into leadership roles in the field, with more men (63.3%) agreeing with this statement than women (19.9%).
Women Farmers Encounter More Barriers Than Their Male Peers
Gender-specific barriers including lack of access to land, markets, agricultural training and education, and financing, put women farmers at a disadvantage before they have a chance to working in a field, stated Maryellen Kennedy Duckett of National Geographic, an American pay television network. Land rights, for instance, prevent women from some parts of the globe from legally owning or controlling land. In fact, women in developing countries only comprise of 10 to 20% of landholders.
Moreover, women farmers may not be able to engage in contract farming agreements when they are not empowered to make decisions regarding land ownership. These agreements could provide them with higher earning and a steady stream of income.
Prevailing gender norms and stereotypes in developing states hinder women from bringing their crops to the market or leaving their villages without their spouse’s permission. In the US, female farmers don’t face the same restrictions, but for Lorie Fleenor, it’s a different story. The 33-year-old eighth-generation Bristol, Tennessee, farmer noted that persistent gender norms in agriculture make it “easier” for Ben, her husband, to engage in business transactions and handle phone calls for the family’s Magna Vista Farm. Fleenor narrated that male farmers do not want to talk to her about when to cut hay, sell cattle, or how much rain their farm has gotten. “I guess being a woman, you have to go above and beyond to prove yourself,” she concluded.
Empowering Women Farmers to Stand Side-By-Side With Men
Amber Fletcher, Christie Newton, and Gina Grandy presented several action plans to support and promote agricultural entrepreneurship among women, via news and analysis website The Conversation.
Published in WEKH (Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub), a site that shares research and resources on women entrepreneurs in Canada, the authors underscored the need to address the under-representation and lack of recognition of women’s presence in agriculture. This also includes a clearer definition and effective documentation of their presence in the field and in formal business ownership agreements.
Child care should be tailored to the “unconventional schedules” of farming and business ownership. Child-friendly spaces should be established at agricultural meetings and conferences. Male farmers can support the women farmers by sharing the burden of child care and household chores and opposing sexism.
Training, networking, and financial supports can also be designed to cater to women farmers, per the recommendation of Fletcher, Newton, and Grandy. However, the drive to instigate changes in the sector lies within women. Rubin said, “Women empower themselves. There is a role for policies and organisations to support the act of women empowering themselves, but in the end it is the women who have to take that responsibility, and who can act on it.”
Women farmers struggle with advancing their careers in agriculture, taking care of the children, fighting gender norms. As more women empower themselves to work in the industry, policies and organizations must do their role of supporting the endeavors of women farmers.