When you think of a farmer, what image usually comes to mind? A man wearing overalls sitting in a large tractor trailer, right?
In many parts of the world, it is WOMEN who produce 60 to 80 percent of the food, increasingly running more farms, operating more land, and producing a greater value of agricultural product. They represent different socio-economic situations, with the nature and extent of women’s involvement in agriculture varying from region to region. Reasons can range from a necessity to feed their families to it simply being a family business.
Almost 15 percent of American farms are now run primarily by women – a major change from 1978, when the figure was 5 percent. On organic farms, according to the Organic Farming Research Foundation, the number is 22 percent.
This spectacular phenomenon isn’t without its complications though.
For example, Sudanese women farmers deal with intermittent droughts and floods that are destroying crops and making farmers’ traditional knowledge obsolete and hard to feed their families. Yet, the government’s farm aid programs traditionally exclude women, denying them credit and agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer.
Recently, thousands of women farmers in Brazil protested the use of toxic weed killers and pesticides on crops, saying they favor farming practices that protect health.
Women farmers in Southeast Asia engaged in rice production are small-owner cultivators. 40% of the Phillipines‘ total agricultural lands are planted to rice and the Filipino women play a very important role in that industry. Their participation is particularly high in activities such as planting, weeding, input and fertilizer application, drying and sacking among others.
There are many supporters of these women worldwide. Organizations such as MADRE and AAROH are in place to help women gain recognition as farmers so that they own agricultural land and access institutional credit, new technologies and government programs. Farmer Jane.org is a site dedicated to featuring the efforts of women – both sung and unsung heroes – that are making positive changes for our food system. There’s even a section of links to sites dedicated to retaining the indigenous knowledge of growing native foods. Also, conferences (nationally) are held annually for women in agriculture.
Women are primarily responsible for food preparation, so it’s only logical that they partake in the nurturing of the crops. Salute to the women who are sowing the seeds with love, creating a more healthful, sane, and sustainable food system for present and future generations!