Agriculture has the potential to spur growth and reduce poverty in Africa, according to the World Bank. However, a wide and pervasive gender gap in agricultural productivity, which is due to a myriad of disadvantages that women face in accessing the same resources, training, markets, and opportunities as men, hinders economic growth, agricultural development, food security, and climate resilience.
“Women [farmers] can’t access the same financial resources as men can, limiting their ability to purchase land, seeds, and equipment,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power.
“A lack of emphasis on education for girls has prevented women farmers from gaining digital fluency and learning to use digital agricultural technology, which could undermine the impact of programs like Space to Place even as we try to scale them. And due to competing, unpaid obligations like cooking, cleaning, and childcare , which all too often fall on their shoulders, women have less time to devote to their farms than men. This lack of access to seeds, tools, and fertilizers has led to significant gender gaps in how much women are able to produce.”
For that reason, USAID is investing in the food systems that farmers, but especially women farmers, rely on. This includes “expanding access to new seeds, digital innovations, and financial resources, as well as ways to store excess harvests and prevent food loss.”
“But perhaps the most important barrier to the success of women farmers is land ownership,” said Administrator Power.
“According to the World Bank, more than a third of countries still place legal limits on women’s ability to own land and property. In other countries, women farmers still struggle against cultural norms that leave farms to sons rather than daughters and relegate women and girls to the home. As a result, globally, women make up less than 15 percent of farm owners, limiting their ability to make purchasing decisions, access credit and loans, and increase yields.”
“There’s tremendous potential here: if we can close the gender gap in agriculture, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that we can lift up to 150 million people out of hunger,” said Administrator Power.
“I urge everyone – governments, communities, nonprofits, private sector companies, and individuals – to change norms that relegate women to the home and begin dismantling legal and structural barriers that are holding back our women farmers, our women leaders. Because when we hold women back, we hold everyone back.”