In this guest blog post, Alexis Ellicott, CNFA Chief of Party on the USAID/Agro-Inputs Project tells Farming First how women are being empowered to enter into the male-dominated sector.
Women produce more than half of the world’s food. Global population is forecast to reach 9 billion by 2050, and the world’s women will continue to shoulder a huge share of the responsibility for feeding all those additional mouths.
But time is not on women’s side. According to the World Economic Forum, we still will be more than 120 years from full gender parity in 2050. It is no stretch to foresee that this continued lack of parity, should it persist as forecast, will severely hinder the ability of women to perform their key role in feeding the world’s population—and produce a potentially disastrous shortfall in the global food supply.
Given these facts, it is clear that if we are to meet our future food needs, we must put increased emphasis on empowering the world’s women farmers and rural women entrepreneurs. And we must act quickly.
Empowering women in many – perhaps most – areas of the world is not a simple task. As anyone involved in global development can attest, efforts to promote gender parity must clear hurdles unique to the social and cultural setting of each initiative.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day — “Be Bold for Change” – hits close to home for me. For the last two years, I have lived in Bangladesh, working with Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), which is implementing the USAID/Agro-Inputs Project (AIP). The effort has been a broad success, not only for men, but also for women. Through the creation of a local Agro-Input Retailers Network (AIRN), AIP now provides funding, training, and technical advice to more than 3,000 retailers selling inputs such as seed and fertilizer – including more than 200 women in what previously had been an almost entirely male-dominated sector.
KARNPLAY, Nimba – A group of 57 people at the Gbehlay-Geh Rural Women Multipurpose Cooperative Society received a US$100,000 loan to boost their rice and cassava production on March 1 in Karnplay.
The group, chaired by Annie Kruah, was formed in September 2005 with a focus on agriculture produce, including rice, cassava, and oil palm. In a special remark during a brief ceremony held prior to the loan distribution, Kruah cautioned her members to treat the loan repayment process with sincerity.
“Women, they have given us a challenge… and they are saying that if we cannot make it, other people will not make it,” Kruah said. “My women, I want [you] to leave proud on the Gbehlay-Geh name. The way the people look at us and respect us… they jumped over the other cooperatives and came to us. Please make us proud so that they can know that women [are] in the county.”
“This challenge is not even for us alone, but for the whole county,” Kruah added. “Let’s get on our feet; let’s put on trousers and work, please. This money is not for pleasure; it’s for working! Let us get in the swamp to work, so that this trial they give us, we can be able to make it.”