Help Women Farmers 'Get to Equal'

April 18, 2017

Photo: A'Melody Lee / World Bank

Across the globe, women make up a large part of agricultural labor: In Sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, they represented 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 World Bank has made gender equality in the agriculture and food sector an explicit goal. Each project includes actions based on a thoughtful gender analysis that aim to result in positive gender outcomes.  The Bank works to:

Expand women’s 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. Microfinance institutions and other financial service providers with presence in rural areas can play a key role in supporting women farmers. The Bank also ensures that women benefit from land titling projects.

Link 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.

Improve 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.

Produce 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.


In Vietnam in 2013, 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.

In 2014, 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.

In Mali in 2015, 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, the Bank helped finance women farmers and processors of cassava, maize and sorghum and linked them to markets.  The project also enhanced household nutrition by diversifying the crops women produce for their families, and introducing tools that help women cook and process food faster and efficiently. As of 2016, 79,000 households have benefited—60% of them headed by women.

Starting in 2011, 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 more than $70 million to date.

In the Republic of Kyrgyzstan women comprise the majority (92%) of membership in rural self help groups. Since 2013, the Bank has trained SHGs in sustainable agriculture practices and vegetable conservation.

In Kenya in 2015, women and men have been trained on new agricultural technologies and agri-business development. The majority of women reported an earnings increase of 35% from their agriculture activities.

Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017