Women farmers: our perspective by Julie Greene, CR&S manager for Africa
Olam’s ambition to improve smallholder farmer livelihoods cannot be fully achieved without addressing gender equality. A fundamental human right, it is also strongly linked to agricultural productivity and social and economic development.
Of the many statistics available on this subject, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) estimates that women farmers produce more than half of all the food that is grown in the world, specifically, up to 80 percent in Africa and 60 percent in Asia.
Yet in many communities where Olam works, women have vastly unequal decision-making power, control over use of income, and access to education, finance, land, and inputs and therefore lower yields. Entrenched social barriers keep women from accessing productive resources and even household decisions. Their additional household responsibilities, such as gathering water and laborious food preparation (often involving hours of husking, cleaning, and pounding rice or maize for it to reach the form that wealthier consumers buy off the supermarket shelves), restrict their time to engage in remunerative activities or attend trainings.
Numerous studies show the positive correlation between gender equality – for example, equal access to education, employment opportunities, and health care – and economic growth, measured in GDP.
Olam works to close the gender gap in agriculture by providing equal opportunities for women to obtain farm inputs and support; encouraging farmer groups to include women leaders; actively drawing women to trainings on good agricultural practices and farm management; providing targeted trainings on nutrition and crop diversification; and sensitising communities about gender equality. In the past year, the number of women farmers we support through the Olam Livelihood Charter (OLC) has increased by 6% to 67,708 or 20% of OLC farmers. Two-thirds of these attended trainings on Good Agricultural Practices in the past year.
True gender equality will require change at all levels of society and institutions in order to break down the social barriers that keep women from realising their full potential. Access to education, healthcare, and land rights are critical components requiring multi-stakeholder solutions and significant national investment. In the face of these formidable challenges, Olam strives to ensure that women have an equal opportunity to be successful in agriculture.
Click here to meet some of the women farmers in Olam’s supply chains.