SEATTLE — In developing countries, two-thirds of the working population are employed in the agriculture sector with women accounting for roughly 43 percent of that workforce. Though women play an important role in feeding the world, gender-specific barriers put women in agriculture at a disadvantage. Women farmers are not as productive as men because of the lack of access to land, markets, farming technologies, credit and training. Though this varies by culture and country, the underlying cause for the wage gap is that social norms systematically limit the options available to women.
PepsiCo Partnership with CARE
That is why PepsiCo. has partnered with CARE and provided an $18.2 million grant to tackle gender inequality in the agriculture sector around the world. The PepsiCo grant will help five million female farmers and their families tackle these disadvantages and empower them to feed the world. By providing women the same access to resources and opportunities, they could increase their farm yields and feed more people.
In developing countries, technological innovations are saving the agricultural sector, but he lack of infrastructure along with droughts, diseases and pests threaten agriculture. Technology can provide a much-needed remedy to these situations in agriculture, and $18.2 million can help tremendously. It can provide women in agriculture with the resources to produce vast crop yields.
Technology in Agriculture
Modern technologies also play a key role in improving the lives of women in agriculture. In countries where water is scarce, a drip irrigation system can provide an efficient way to conserve water. Though this system uses half as much water as general irrigation, the downside to this innovation is its cost and use of electrical power, which contributes to women being unable to afford this type of technology. PepsiCo’s grant can help women access technology they could not normally afford, such as the drip irrigation system.
Many people in developing countries still lack access to electricity. Access to affordable and sustainable energy can improve access to different aspects of farming such as irrigation and the Internet. These technologies would allow farmers to access information about weather and farming techniques. Communication and access to the Internet through smartphones and computers becoming an essential part of farming. By using these technologies, women can access educational information about crop handling, weather and other agriculture-related information.
Other technological innovations that could improve farm yields for women include mechanization, biotechnology and crop protection products. When women have access to such technologies, productivity can increase, benefiting the farmer and their family as well as the communities they feed.
Women and Landownership
While land is a basic requirement for farming, in most developing countries, women farmers make up just 10 to 20 percent of landholders and when women do own land it is generally a small plot of poor quality. In some cultures, women do not have any land rights as well. For example, in the Middle Eastern and North African regions, 25 million women lack equal property rights. When women have secure land rights, their empowerment increases through economic and food security for not just themselves, but for their families and community as well.
Women at the head of their households tend to have less education than their male counterparts, which is a reflection of the bias against women in education. Without a basic education, it is difficult for women to actively participate in training that involves basic writing and/or reading skills. By using the part of the $18.2 million grant to further women’s education, PepsiCo might also help improve crop yields.
With new technologies will come a need for training and education to adopt innovations. Agricultural extension, which is the application of scientific research to agricultural practices through farmer education, is a key source for farmers in developing countries. Some approaches included in agricultural extension services include farm-field schools and mobile data services.
Women in agriculture cannot always make their own decisions since they typically do not own the land that they work on. PepsiCo and CARE have given them the opportunity to tackle the gender inequality they face every day.
– Andrea Rodriguez