Celebrating the role of women in agriculture

15 October, 2013

Image credit: Global Water Partnership

On the international day of rural women, we reflect on the vital role women play in global agriculture.

Today is the UN’s International Day of Rural Women. Established by the UN in 2008, the 15th October is a day to recognise the important role that millions of women play in enhancing agricultural and rural development and their effect on improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

The role of women in agriculture has been a recurring theme throughout our series on Global food, agriculture and land use. Our meeting on Improving diet and nutrition noted the key role that women play in improving food and nutritional security. Rural women frequently juggle a dual role in both growing food and preparing it for their families’ consumption.

Patterns of migration also make female farmers hugely important to the global food system – a trend highlighted by our meeting on Resilient agriculture. As many developing nations in Africa grow and develop, increasing numbers of rural dwelling people journey to cities in order to find work. This frequently leaves women behind to farm in these remote communities. For example, in Tanzania approximately 67% of farmers are female.

However, this is often overlooked and female producers frequently face discrimination. In many countries, rights to land ownership are difficult for women to acquire and female farmers often receive lower prices for their produce than their male counterparts. In Tanzania, despite the majority of farmers being female, only 1% of farming land is owned by women.

Happily, this is not the case in all rural parts of the developing world. For example, our conference on Global land use reflected progress in Rwanda. Rwanda’s 2005 National Land Policy emphasises principles of gender equality, ensuring that Rwandan women have equal land rights to men. Of the roughly four million plots of land registered under the policy to 2011, 84% list women as either sole or co-owners.

There still remains much work to be done to empower women in agriculture, particularly those residing in rural areas. Taking a day to recognise and emphasise their contribution is important as work to support such women continues.


Further information

International Day of Rural Women

Our series on ‘Global food, land use and agriculture’ ran for six meetings between 2011 and 2013. The series included conferences on:

Global food and agriculture: policy options in response to increased volatility

Global land use: policies for the future

Improving diet and nutrition: challenges for global food, agricultural and land use policies

Global food security: the role of science and technology

How to create resilient agricultural systems in a world of increasing resource scarcity and climate change

Empowering people and shaping policies for resilient agriculture and food systems

Stay up to date

Sign up to our newsletter