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Why women farmers matter to agriculture

December 29, 2015

Poverty is a problem no one wants and yet which we have so little idea about how to combat. One key way has been through the understanding that money itself isn’t enough – but policies and infrastructures in various regions that help cement certain systems, that prevent people from breaking a poverty cycle. One way that has long been argued has been to empower women, providing them with the tools to succeed.

When women succeed, everyone else does, too. Indeed, this is what The World Bank constantly finds in its research:

“Across the globe, women make up a large part of agricultural labor: In Sub-Saharan Africa, they represent 40 % of the agricultural labor force. In some developing countries, their contributions exceed 50%. Closing the gender gap could increase yields on women-run farms by 20-30%. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5- 4%.”

Elsewhere, such as in Bolivia, rural dependency on women is so high that “without empowered women, there is no future for rural areas.”

The importance then isn’t just for women – though, that in itself, is a worthwhile goal – but rather entire regions. After all, agriculture is essential to all nations. Farmers and businesses being able to manage their farms efficiently, whether through better infrastructures or taking out agricultural finance, means that everyone benefits – the world obtains more food and more people can work.

But the example of infrastructure shows itself in Africa and the way agriculture is managed. Tony Nsanganira‚ the Minister of State in Charge of Agriculture for Rwanda, said:

“While Africa holds 60% of the world’s arable land‚ it is still only contributing just 10% to agriculture globally. Innovation is the greatest catalyst of agricultural development and ultimately poverty reduction.”

Innovation means improving how farms work, how produce is created and distributed, the success and failures of import and many other factors. The point being that merely having 60% of land on which to grow doesn’t mean you’ll be producing as much – or rather being able to manage as much in equal terms, when you don’t have the financial and infrastructural backing to do so.

And tied to this is a focus on women, as business leaders, innovators and other important roles that can help determine their own lives and others. This kind of focus is what will make that 60% matter and make the world that much better.

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