From the work place to politics to the home, movements from every corner of the globe are working to address the continued disparities in gender equality.
In a recent joint World Bank and O.N.E. Campaign report called “Leveling the Field, Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa,” it appears that addressing the gender gap in agriculture in Africa is not as straight-forward as it may seem.
The general argument goes that if female farmers have the same access to productive resources as men, then they will be able to reach similar yields in their crop outputs. However, despite this well documented and well-argued position, it seems that this is not enough to address the gender gap between men and women farmers.
For example, in Ethiopia women produce 23 percent less per hectare than men; in Malawi 25 percent less; in Tanzania 14 percent less. In Niger (19 percent less), even when women use the same amount of labor for their plots, men still hold an advantage in yield rates.
There are a number of reasons that female farmers are producing consistently less than their male counterparts, including the fact that there is a continued gap in access to farming inputs (labor, better seeds, fertilizers etc.). In addition, many women often have to split their time farming with childcare duties, reducing the amount of energy and focus they are able to give to producing high crop yields.
There are also cultural norms in place, which influence male laborers to work harder for a male farmer than a female. This means that the females are not able to command as much authority on their hired labor, which impacts the production rates during planting and harvesting seasons.
In order to overcome these barriers, African governments and partners must work to put in place more effective and targeted policies that will enhance gender equality among African female farmers. The report listed several possible policies including: strengthening women’s land rights, improving women’s access to hired labor – as well as tools and equipment– and finally promoting women’s cultivation of high-value or cash crops, to help them reap better and more profitable yields.
Addressing gender gaps around the world requires the same type of targeted policies as the World Bank and O.N.E. Campaign report suggests for African female farmers. Making women a priority for economic growth, in all sectors of society, is not just good social policy, but also a good policy for long-term economic development.
– Andrea Blinkhorn