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The Invisible Farmer

The Invisible Farmer A man once took his young son to a flower shop to get a flower for his dear wife. When they were in the flower shop, he noticed that his son was in awe of the beauty of the flowers in the shop. The father asked him, what does he like about the flowers the most. The son replied, ‘the beauty of the flower. I love the beauty dad; it is so beautiful and smells nice.
Why don’t you buy everything? because mum will like everything. The father laughed and asked the son, what do you think is the most important part of the flower and the son quickly replied, ‘the beauty’. The father said, ‘The root is the most important part of the flower because, without it, it won’t exist. Though the root is not as beautiful as the other parts, it is the most important part of the flower. Sometimes, son, the most vital part of a thing is not the most beautiful part.’ Well, first off, I want to apologize for telling you a boring story. This is a story my grandmother once told me and the moral of this story is that the most important part of the system is sometimes hidden or seems invisible. When I hear the word, ‘invisible farmer’, this story comes to my mind.  Women are vital to the agriculture system but yet don’t have access to the agricultural resources that the opposite gender has. Without land, women have nothing to leverage as collateral for formal finance and are often excluded from government programs to support farmers, such as subsidized inputs and training. Ultimately, women farmers’ lack of documented land rights keeps them invisible and limits their productivity- World Bank Let’s go into some very vital stats about women in the agriculture sector that shows how important women are in the agriculture sector. On average, women comprise 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, ranging from 20% in Latin America to 50% in Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa- The state of food and agriculture: women in agriculture FAO, 2011. Women are of vital importance to rural economies. Rearing poultry and small livestock and growing food crops, they are responsible for some 60% to 80% of food production in developing countries. – Women and Rural Employment. Policy Brief 5b. FAO, 2009. In many farming communities, women are the main custodians of knowledge on crop varieties. In some regions of sub-Saharan Africa, women may cultivate as many as 120 different plants alongside the cash crops that are managed by men. – Natural Resources, FAO Economic and Social Development. Rural women carry a great part of the burden of providing water and fuel. In rural areas of Malawi, for example, women spend more than eightfold the amount of time fetching wood and water per week than men. Collectively women from sub-Saharan Africa spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water. –Rural Women and the Millennium Development Goals. Inter-Agency Task Force, 2012. These are the few stats that show how important they are to the agriculture sector but why are they still called invisible farmers, if they are vital? This situation is best described by the World Bank.
invisible farmer
Let’s use statistics to describe the situation that women tend to face in the agriculture sector. In the 97 countries assessed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), female farmers only received 5% of all agricultural extension services. Worldwide, only 15% of those providing these services are women. Just 10% of the total aid provided for agriculture, forestry, and fishing goes to women. In developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Women typically work 12 to 13 hours per week more than men, yet women’s contributions are often invisible and unpaid. Rural women carry a great part of the burden of providing water and fuel. In rural areas of Malawi, for example, women spend more than eightfold the amount of time fetching wood and water per week than men. Collectively, women from Sub-Saharan Africa spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water. Due to legal and cultural constraints in land inheritance, ownership, and use, less than 20% of landholders are women. In North Africa and West Asia, women represent fewer than 5% of all agricultural landowners; while across Sub-Saharan Africa, they make up 15%. This average marks wide variations between countries, from under 5% in Mali to over 30% in Botswana. Latin America has the highest share of agricultural holders, which exceeds 25% in Chile, Ecuador, and Panama. These are some of the few stats that describe situations women face in the agricultural sector most especially in developing countries. The need for women to be empowered cannot be over-emphasized because if the world would stand a chance to fight against poverty and hunger then we need all the vital help to accomplish that. The reduced agricultural productivity of women due to gender-based inequalities in access to and control of productive and financial resources costs Malawi $100 million. Tanzania $105 million and Uganda $67 million every year. Closing the gender gap could lift as many as 238,000 people out of poverty in Malawi, 119,000 people in Uganda, and 80,000 people in Tanzania each year. These statistics show why women in agriculture are called, ‘invisible farmers’. It is important that if the agriculture sector has a chance in fighting hunger, the invisible farmer needs to be visible. Women are not only those who face these challenges in the agricultural sector, the disabled also face these challenges. The issue of gender equality mustn’t be about women alone but it is about everyone and it is for everyone.  Jennifer Denomy…. Talks in depth about what gender equality means in the agricultural sector on our podcast show. You can listen to the full podcast. You can also listen to the invisible farmer by Hadiza Yaro on our podcast show.  

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