|Kilimo News - A Quarterly Newsletter of the Ministry of Agriculture - September 1998 (Agriculture Information Centre, 1998, 32 p.)|
T. Muthui - KILIMO HOUSE.
Rural women mainly farmers number about 1,600 million and represent more than a quarter of the total world population. They pro duce on average half of all the food grown - up to 80% in Africa, 60% in Asia, 30-40% in Latin America and Western countries. In some parts of Africa 60% of households are headed by women while in Kenya, the figure stands at 40%. World wide, women are the sole breadwinners of one house hold in three. Women own 2% of land and receive only 1% of all the agricultural credit. Only 5% of agricultural extension re sources are directed to women. Women rep resent 2/3 of all the illiterate, more than 70% of the worlds 1,300 million poor and account for most of the worlds 800 million hungry. 0.5 million women die annually while giving birth or from abortion. Every year 60 million girls disappear........and the pathetic tales about rural women are end-less.
A Default in loan repayment by women group members uncommon
Rural and farming women continue to face many constraints as entrepreneurs and workers and are often disadvantaged with respect to their male partners. In many countries they operate under very difficult conditions without power to secure land rights or access to vital services hence the feminization of poverty as well as agriculture are a growing phenomena throughout the world.
Education, training and information are essential factors for womens empowerment and for improving food security. Experience has shown that training programmes which ignore womens roles risk low return and fail to achieve development objectives. This is particularly true in the agricultural sector where womens education is crucial to higher productivity and increased environmental protection. A World Bank study estimates that the rate of return on investment in worn ens education is about 12% in terms of increased productivity. Increasing womens primary schooling alone would increase agricultural output by 24%. An ILO report indicates that each additional year of schooling raises a womans earning by 15% compared to 11% for men and a recent study in Kenya showed that agricultural productivity among rural women could be increased by 24% if all women farmers completed primary school education.
The vital role played by rural women in agriculture and rural development is gaining recognition especially in the international fora. The World Food Summit (1996) acknowledged the fundamental contribution towards food security by women, particularly in developing countries. All summit Governments agreed to ensure the empowerment of women by providing equal opportunities for education and training in food production, processing and marketing. They pledged to tailor extension and technical services to women producers in order to promote investment in food security programmes which benefit small scale food producers especially women and their organizations. Also to strengthen womens capacity to design and implement these programmes. An International Symposium on Investing in Rural Women Through Training and Information Towards Food Security held on 15th Oct. 1997 at FAO headquarters on the occasion of the celebration of the Worlds Rural Womens Day is another pointer in the right direction for the rural woman. The symposium recognised that the common bond linking people from so many different countries, organizations and experiences was the universality of agriculture - The Green Thread Around the World and their commitment to the cause of people who live and operate in rural areas. During the symposium, it was announced that the President of the United States of America and his Philippines counterpart had proclaimed 15th October a National Rural Womens Day while the Italian Minister for Agricultural Policies signed a decree for the establishment of an observatory for women entrepreneurship in Agriculture.
Education, training and information are essential factors for womens empowerment and for improving food security. However, these factors are not sufficient to bring about desired change in the rural womens situation. There is in additional need to create conditions for women to obtain access to and control over productive resources and to make decisions and master their life. An all round approach is required which takes into account the multiple roles of rural women as food and agricultural producers, managers of natural resources, providers for the next generation and the elderly and custodians of traditional and cultural values. In addition to training, governments need to put in place other measures to assist women in their roles such as: -
- Gender sensitive policies and legislation.
- Well targeted programmes and resources.
- Rural infrastructure and support services
- Strong representative organizations.
- Access to credit and other inputs.
- Collection of gender desegregated data
- Research adapted to womens works
- Change in attitude.