October 14, 2011 – MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. United States – According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, women produce between 60 and 80 percent of food in most developing countries. The International Day of Rural Women (October 15) is an annual opportunity to recognize and support the multiple roles that these women play, most notably as farmers and small entrepreneurs.
“We have known for decades now that at least half of the planet’s 900 million small subsistence farmers are likely to be women. The progress in helping these women do what they do better is far too slow,” said Margaret Catley-Carlson, patron of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and member of the IFDC Board of Directors. “Property issues impede her ability to get credit; social and decisional systems exclude her, and the basics of life – water and primary education – are too often not at hand. Fortunately, there is a whole new array of mechanisms that show promise: using crops as an asset for credit; building networks that must reach the rural farmer if the network itself is to thrive; and getting seeds and agro-inputs and market access knowledge messages to her. These things will help. Political leaders could help more.”
According to Ann Tutwiler, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN deputy director-general for knowledge and former member of the IFDC Board of Directors, “If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4.0 percent, reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.”
IFDC recognizes the critical role that women play in agriculture around the world. These dedicated and determined women are often the backbone of local agricultural systems – and serve as beacons of hope for many poor rural villages. They are often the sole providers for their families and are usually faced with the difficult balance of work and childcare along with the care of other family members. In service to these women, IFDC, though its projects and initiatives, continues to focus on gender equity, female farmer and agro-dealer training, land use rights, social and financial equity and policy reform.
For example, IFDC projects trained over 500,000 people in 2010; 26 percent were women. IFDC’s CATALIST project has provided assistance to numerous farmer associations including the League of Women Farmers’ Organizations of North Kivu (LOFEPACO). LOFEPACO provides opportunities for women farmers in the war-torn North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. With CATALIST support, LOFEPACO members have increased crop yields through the use of integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) practices and gained access to credit.
Many women-led agro-input businesses have now expanded into profitable small and medium enterprises, in part through support from IFDC programs that provide training in business and product management to agro-dealers.
“To commemorate the 2011 International Day of Rural Women, it is appropriate to remember the late Wangari Maathai. Her great work in the areas of biodiversity and environment while involving Africa’s rural women stands out and will remain alive forever,” said Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture and member of the IFDC Board of Directors. “Africa’s daughters and granddaughters have Maathai’s contributions to look to for generations to come.” The first African woman to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, Maathai is best known for empowering village women to plant trees throughout Kenya.
Representing over a quarter of the world’s population, rural women greatly contribute to both the well-being of their families and the development of rural economies. IFDC salutes these women for their commitment and passion to improve their lives while assisting the world to improve food security.
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