Women represent nearly half the agricultural workforce — 70 percent in many parts of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa — but disproportionately they work on smallholder farms with little to no income. If women had the same access to resources as their male counterparts, they could increase their yields by 20 to 30 percent and, in the process, feed up to 150 million undernourished people.
While Securing Water for Food already prioritizes the engagement of women-owned and women-led enterprises, SWFF and its partners recognize that more can be done. Earlier this month, the SWFF Technical Assistance Facility completed a gender report to further analyze what factors into this gap, and how the SWFF program, its Founding Partners, the SWFF Technical Assistance Facility, and the program’s innovators can better incorporate gender into their goals and activities.
The report documents many contributing factors. Some are cultural barriers: In areas where it’s not culturally appropriate for women to speak to men outside of their family, they cannot interact with agents selling the latest and most efficient technologies. Women are also expected to care for children, cook meals, and gather firewood, placing greater restraints on their time. Other obstacles are financial: In some developing countries, less than 10 percent of the financial credit awarded to smallholder farmers is given to women.
Taking into account the obstacles women face both socially and politically, SWFF innovators are examining new ways to better integrate gender into their operations and better understand how women can adopt their technologies. Many SWFF innovators have already found ways to better incorporate and address gender with their technologies. World Hope, for example, adapted its service strategy to include training, troubleshooting, and follow-up support for women. Aybar hires more women in manufacturing and distribution positions, as the company has found that women tend to be more meticulous, and their overall quality of work is higher. Half of SWFF innovations are run by women in primary leadership roles, and half the teams are comprised of at least 41 percent women.
As agricultural technologies evolve, closing the gap between men’s and women’s access to resources will be increasingly important. Doing so increases national productivity, reduces poverty, and promotes economic efficiency. By addressing the challenges and opportunities identified in the report, SWFF and its innovators will be able to better serve the needs of women, families, and the farms on which they depend.
The full report is available here to help innovators and vendors further augment their own gender-inclusion practices.