A humanitarian group says if women farmers had the same rights as men much more could be done to reduce world hunger. Bread for the World says equal access to agricultural resources would help ensure food security and boost economic growth.
Bread for the World's new report – Empowering Women in Agriculture – says women are "active players" in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. But Faustine Wabwire says they receive little compensation for toiling in the fields. Wabwire, a Kenyan, is the group's foreign assistance analyst.
"Women constituted half of the agricultural labor force in not just Africa, but the developing countries as a whole. And when you think of Africa alone it's more than 60 percent of the total agricultural labor force being provided by women," she said.
Few women landowners
The reports says, "In most countries, women in rural areas who earn an income are more likely than men to hold seasonal, part time, and low-wage jobs. Women also receive less pay for the same work."
Wabwire said women farmers lack access to seeds, fertilizer, proper tools, credit and especially land.
"For most of Africa, we have about 80 percent of the population living in rural areas and they subsist on agriculture. Now women make 60 percent of the agricultural labor force and they have no access to resources. So for example, land is one good example where less than 20 percent of all landholders are women," she said.
That's often been the case for both legal and cultural reasons.
"Women, who have lost their husbands, because they have no control, they no legal rights over the land, the only way they could sustain that land is (if) they got married to say a brother of the deceased husband. So constraints like this are still very prevalent in most African societies and they continue to impede women‘s ability to fully enjoy their human rights," she said.
Feeding the future
However, she said the role of women in agriculture has become more visible. For example, the new Kenya constitution grants women the right to own land. But she said there's still a long way to go. That's why Bread for the World is lobbying the U.S. to maintain or increase funding for poverty-related development assistance.
"This assistance through programs such as Feed the Future, which is the U.S. government's agriculture program, is helping to elevate the status of women. It's enabling women to access productive resources such as seeds. They are able to have access to extension services, which will enable them to produce more and contribute to healthy societies," she said.
But Wabwire said more African governments must recognize the major role that women play in agriculture and elsewhere.
The Bread for the World report said, "Putting more income in the hands of women translates into improved child nutrition, health, and education." It adds if women change their economic status, they will "transform the economic life of the communities and countries in which they live."
It estimates that if women had equal access to agricultural resources, hunger could be reduced for an extra 100 million to 150 million people.