Global Food Crisis Raises the Status of Female Farmers

By Carroll Colette J. Yorgey

According to Worldwatch, the global food crisis has reached epic proportions with more than one billion starving people every day, worldwide, with only 10 percent of charitable funding going to women farmers. Agricultural organizations are beginning to take notice of the important role of women farmers.

Women farmers worldwide and especially in developing countries are taking action to increase their crop yields and educate themselves about sustainable farming, as part of their drive to nurture and protect their families by farming their land and improving food sources for their families. Within the near future women farmers will more and more take action to increase their funding sources themselves.

Traditionally women, going back to hunting and gathering societies, were the first farmers. While men went out hunting for big game, the women stayed closer to home and gathered fruits and berries. When the first peoples began farming it was the women who were home with the children and who started planting and growing fruits and vegetables, while the men were still out hunting.

With the advent of the industrial revolution and the 20th century, men took over the role of farming and gardening and it seemed to be a man’s occupation, but in countrysides and on family farms even though it appeared that men were the farmers, women could often be seen driving tractors and other farm equipment to support the farm. However today, women are increasingly buying and operating farms and are no longer the little woman helping out. Women are the farmers of today, and buying and owning farms. Women are today at the forefront of keeping the family together by doing their part in farming and growing crops to feed their families.

Women have traditionally been the nurturers of their families, taking care of the children and staying home with the children. Women as they have grown into their own are beginning to realize some of the traditional roles of women are still very important and serve to increase the worth of women. Women are opting to stay home again, while at the same time operating the business of farming. Younger women are more acutely aware of environmental impacts of food on their families, and have taken the reins to building farms that protect and nurture their families, both here in America and around the world.

Women farmers in America

Jennifer Ludden, in her article entitled “Female Farmers: A Growing Trend in America”, states that “women now run 1 in 10 American farms,” with the number of farms managed by women climbing 13 percent between 1987 and 2002. Pennsylvania alone “lost 2,000 farms but gained 1,000 farms managed by women.”

Allison Rogers in her article entitled, “Female Farmers Get Down and Dirty”, published in Mother Earth News, states that in America’s northeast region, 20,000 farms are owned and managed by women. In Virginia and Maryland, the rise in women-run farms has been 16 percent.

Women farmers in developing countries

In developing countries, women are taking over the role of farming, such as in Nairobi, Kenya, the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa, where women “harvest vegetables on the outskirts of city slums” by “growing vegetables in sacks filled with dirt.” In sub-Saharan Africa, 80 percent of small farmers are women.

Women farmers worldwide

Worldwide 1.6 billion women are farmers and “depend on agriculture as their livelihood,” and produce more than one half of the world’s food supply. However, worldwide, women own only 2 percent of the land and only receive 5 percent of agricultural extension services.

According to Action Aid at their goal is to cut hunger in half by 2015. To do this they are urging donors and governments to target female farmers for “funding and development.” Other agricultural organizations are also taking notice of female farmers to help them with resources needed to improve and build their farms, such as supplying seeds.

Organizations that are helping to fund women farmers:

  • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
  • French NGO, Solidarities
  • International Development Enterprises (IDE)
  • Farmers for the Future Initiative (FOFI)

These organizations are helping to do their part in helping to wipe out hunger by noticing women at the helm of farming initiatives and offering funding, education, and support to female farmers.

Other organizations such as the Community Economic Development program at Southern New Hampshire University, educate both men and women in developing countries who bring back to their countries ways to improve their community economies. They are taught sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and how to improve degraded lands and streams for the health and well-being of their families.

In conclusion, women, the traditional farmers of the world are more and more realizing their primary role as nurturers and taking on the responsibility of improving world conditions by being active farmers. Agricultural organizations are beginning to recognize women as a primary source for staving off world hunger and are beginning to fund more and more women farmers.

Copyright © 2018 Carroll Colette J. Yorgey. Edited and used with her permission.

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