Today is International Women’s Day, themed “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives” – putting a focus on rural women, who are typically forgotten and left out the development conversation, even though they represent more than a quarter of the world’s population. An infographic on rural women and girls released by the United Nations states that the share of women working in agriculture is 60 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, while less than 13 per cent of agricultural landholders globally are women. “Agriculture remains the most important employment sector for women in developing countries and rural areas,” states the sheet, “a sector that largely falls within the informal economy with little or no social protection and labour rights.”
As women around the world and of all walks of life speak up for gender equality, the ISAAA is drawing attention to the role women play in biotech in agriculture, highlighting a study it conducted in China, India and the Philippines focusing on the women who play a significant role in biotech crop farming. “In China, there has been a growing feminisation in cotton farming… Based on focus group discussions, the reduction in pesticide use and less labour requirement of planting GM crops benefited women,” says the ISAAA of the study. “In the Philippines, women take charge of managerial tasks such as budgeting farm expenses, deciding on inputs, and hiring labourers to work on the farm. These indicate that women who are engaged in biotech crop farming experience transformation because of the value they provide to their family farm operations and the benefits that they get from the technology.”
Meanwhile, President of the African Development BankAkinwumi Adesina stated in an op-ed published on 7 March for the occasion, “women are the backbone of Africa’s economies. They are primary producers and processors of food in Africa’s agriculture and rural economies. More than half of economically active women in Africa earn their livelihoods in agriculture, and they account for the majority of small and medium-sized businesses. Yet, they constitute a meagre 15 per cent of land use rights and just 1 per cent of land ownership. They receive only 5 per cent of agriculture extension services and less than 10 per cent of available financial credit. This state of affairs cannot and should not continue. For reasons of human rights, justice and equity, as well as financial common sense, the African Development Bank advocates for policies that encourage women to work, set up businesses and participate in market development as consumers, producers and entrepreneurs. Significant economic potential is wasted when women are deprived of such opportunities”.
We are pleased to be able to feature the voice of an African woman farmer, as the Daily Monitor this week published an opinion piece (“GMOs: Give farmers a chance to speak out”) by Ugandan farmer Emma Naluyima, who writes on her stance on biotech crops, calling for farmers’ voices to be heard in her country’s GM policy debate. “While farmers remain an important stakeholder category to benefit or lose from GMOs, their voices in these debates are seldom heard. [B]ecause actual farmers are too busy on their farms to be part of these debates, armchair farmers and NGOs claiming to represent farmers have jumped on this activism,” writes Naluyima, who farms livestock, fish and vegetables using both traditional and modern technologies. “As a farmer, all I look for in any given technology, is whether it can solve current challenges I am facing or suiting the needs of the market I am targeting,” she says. “If a GMO has a certain characteristic that can solve a challenge on my farm, I will gladly embrace it.”
We will look for more stories emerging this week covering women in agriculture, and bring them to you the following week.
As ever, we welcome questions, comments and story links to[email protected]. Please also visit B4FA.org for further reading and useful resources – and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up with daily news and join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!
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