Help Women Farmers 'Get to Equal'

September 23, 2015

Photo: A'Melody Lee / World Bank

Across the globe, women make up a large part of agricultural labor: In Sub-Saharan Africa, they represent 40 % of the agricultural labor force. In some developing countries, their contributions exceed 50%. Closing the gender gap could increase yields on women-run farms by 20-30%. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5- 4%.

But women own fewer assets (land, livestock, human capital), and have less access to inputs (seeds, fertilizer, labor, finance) and services (training, insurance,) than men.  To further complicate things, equal access to resources does not guarantee equal returns for women farmers. Women need specialized agricultural training, child care and customized support to ease their double work load as farmers and caregivers. The right resources could help rural women maximize economic opportunities, increase productivity, and improve food security, education and healthcare, since women tend to reinvest in their households.

The Bank is elevating its game in gender by taking gender equality in the agriculture and food sector as an explicit goal. Each project includes actions based on a thoughtful gender analysis that aim to result in positive gender outcomes.  

Women Gaining Access to Land and Rural Finance

Providing women with greater access to land, finance, and production inputs is critical to closing the productivity gap between men and women.

 In Vietnam, a Rural Finance project increased women rural entrepreneurs’ access to financial services by requiring that women borrowers account for at least 40% of short-term loans for household and microenterprises. Of the 120,000 borrowers who invested US$430 million in projects, 42% are women.

A land-husbandry project in Rwanda helped 85% of its beneficiary women farmers become clients of formal financial institutions. Seventy percent secured tools to improve their farming methods.

The Bank also ensures that women benefit from land titling projects. In Aceh, Indonesia, the Bank facilitated space on land registration forms for registering land under women’s names, and local institutions were given gender-sensitivity training.

Linking Women to Agricultural Value Chains

When women are linked to agricultural value chains from production all the way to processing and marketing, they help make traditional farming more productive and commercially viable. Inclusive value chains also offer work opportunities for women and men off the farm.

In Mali, the Bank helped develop horticultural value chains, where women are key players particularly at the agro-processing STAGE. About 40% of project beneficiaries are women who have acquired new skills and employment through the project.

In Cameroon, a new Bank project will finance women farmers and processors of cassava, maize and sorghum and link them to markets.  The project will also enhance household nutrition by diversifying the crops women produce for their families, and introducing tools that help women cook and process food faster and efficiently. 

Improving Rural Women’s Access to Training and Information

Knowledge of farming techniques is critical to productivity, however women farmers have inadequate access to agricultural extension and training services. It is also important that training and agricultural technologies are accessible and adapted to rural women’s needs and constraints. The India National Rural Livelihoods Project mobilized rural women into 300,000 self-help groups (SHGs) at the village, sub-district, and district level.  The SHGs promote savings among the rural poor, particularly women, so that they can build up their financial capital and become clients of banks, microfinance institutions, insurance companies and other financial institutions that provide credit and other financial services. Member households have cumulatively saved $70 million to date.

In the Republic of Kyrgyzstan women are majority (92%) of rural self help groups, which the Bank trains in sustainable agriculture practices and vegetable conservation as well as in business skills enabling them to improve nutrition of family as well as increase income.

In Kenya, women and men have been trained on new agricultural technologies and agri-business development. The majority of women have been satisfied with these extension services and their earnings from agriculture activities have increased by 35%.

Producing Knowledge, Data and Tools that Promote Gender Equality in Agriculture and Food Sector Projects

The Bank produces resources that help practitioners integrate gender-sensitive actions in their projects. This includes the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook and an e-learning course, as well as the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development.