Want to Build Thriving Communities? Help Women in Agriculture Get Improved Access to the Marketplace
“If you teach a man to farm, his family will eat.
If you teach a woman to farm, the community will eat.”
No one knows the original source of the saying, which I found in an article published by National Geographic in 2019. The proverb was quoted from a woman farmer in the United States -- but it might have been heard anywhere in the world.
According to Global Agriculture, a site which compiles the findings of international agricultural studies, some 43% of agricultural workers in developing nations are women. Women do a lot of the world’s hardest, most back-breaking farming work.
But, that doesn’t mean they have equal access to the tools that make farming profitable, like loans and other financial products. As just one example, in a 2012 UN study, it’s estimated that if women had the same access to financial resources and tools as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30% (Global Agriculture).
Women also often face challenges when trying to get their products to market. The simple fact is that, globally, most farm to market transporters are men. Most intermediaries are men. Most wholesalers are men. Many of the key network relationships that make it possible for a woman farmer to see the value of her labor are still male-dominated.
And market access isn’t just an issue in emerging economies. As explained in an article by the U.S. magazine, Pacific Standard, although women own and operate half the farmland in the United States, farms run by men earned almost twice as much on average as those run by women in 2017. “Even though I run the farm and make the decisions, they [male farmers] don't want to talk to me about when to cut hay, or when to sell cattle, or how much rain we've gotten. They want to talk to a man” (National Geographic).
Small farmers around the world don’t make enough money. Women small farmers make less.
There is good news on the horizon. Issues with female access to business networks and finance opportunities are slowly beginning to improve in a number of markets. And technology can help close the gap, faster. A cellphone with even limited data connectivity can be as important a production tool these days as a tractor. A 2019 study by GSMA found that 80% of women across developing markets own mobile phones. Let’s put these phones to good use. Apps -- like Agromovil, our Match, Batch and Pay platform -- can help women deal directly with buyers and transporters, bypassing the old-boys network and helping get products to market at better prices. Apps like Agromovil don’t care about a user’s gender.
So, let’s imagine a world in which global food production was maximized by empowering women to cultivate the land to its fullest. Imagine that women, through technology, are able to get access to the best data and markets, seeing multiple options for sale and transport. Imagine all of their produce -- including the more than $90B each year of harvested crops that never even make it to market -- for sale at competitive prices. According to FAO, fully unlocking the power of women farmers could eliminate hunger for 150 million people. With greater use of tech among women farmers, we know that number could be higher.
There is an old Polish proverb that tells the story well: “If the farmer is poor, so is the whole country.” When women make more more through farming, they are likely to spend more on health care, nutrition, and education for their children, investments that will make their communities more resilient for years to come (National Geographic). It’s long past time to get women the market access they deserve through technology. Empowering female farmers is the future -- it must be everyone’s future. And we at Agromovil are eager to be part of the solution.
Global Agriculture- https://www.globalagriculture.org/report-topics/women-in-agriculture.html
National Geographic- https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/03/partner-content-empowering-female-farmers/#:~:text=Globally%2C%20reports%20the%20United%20Nations,in%20the%20U.S.%20are%20women.