Women’s empowerment in agriculture

Agriculture in Egypt accounts for about 14.5 percent of GDP and women make up most of the workforce. World Bank data shows that between 2011 and 2014, 43 percent of women were employed in agriculture versus only 24 percent of men. These women often work long hours and in labor-intensive sectors including harvesting and fertilizing land. According to a paper by Korang Ismail Abdel-Gawad, a survey of Upper and Lower Egypt shows that women participation in harvesting was 67 percent in lower-Egypt and 94.3 percent in upper-Egypt.

Despite women’s contribution to the economy through agriculture, they are frequently overlooked in both data and investment. The Principal Bank of Development and Agriculture, a major financial institution responsible for providing agricultural credit in Egypt, neglects to grant many long-term loans to women. Only one in twenty-six long-term borrowers and one-third of short-term borrowers are women. Furthermore, women make up only 5 percent of agricultural landowners.

Women’s empowerment in agriculture is crucial in order to increase growth in agriculture-related GDP. According to the International Monetary Fund, if the female labor force participation rate in Egypt is raised to the male level, coupled with access to employment opportunities, the GDP would increase by approximately 34 percent. This includes gaining access to land, educational or instructional opportunities and gender-based equity programs. Here are a few main projects in Egypt related to women’s empowerment in agriculture:

USAID’s Strengthening Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (SEED):

This project was created to strengthen micro, small and medium business owners (MSMEs) to ensure that they have access to the appropriate business development tools. In particular, the project focuses on businesses owned by women and youth with special attention to disadvantaged communities.
Related to this project is the Workforce Improvement and Skills Enhancement (WISE) program that provides employment training and technical-skills training to women and youth.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):

The FAO improves agricultural productivity and food security through sanitary measures and regulations. This organization also supports female empowerment by encouraging of small enterprises and agricultural investment programs.

Women’s Employment Promotion Program:

This program helps to promote workplace safety and increase employment contracts that benefit women through pay equity, benefits and steady hours. In addition, the program provides educational seminars that help increase labor-force participation and prepare youth for employment

These three projects help to promote women in the workforce in order to increase economic returns and foster a safe and productive work environment. A prime focus is women’s empowerment in agriculture since it is such a large source of employment in Egypt. With access to credit, training opportunities and overall support in the agricultural sector, women can continue to have a growing impact on Egypt’s GDP and provide reliable income for their families. Strengthening the agricultural sector by supporting women in the workforce means an overall increase in food exports, and thus a larger contribution to the global economy.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr