Participation of rural women in agriculture

Paola E. Haiat
December 21, 2023

According to the study “World Employment Social Outlook”, one in three women work in agriculture. Moreover, in rural areas with difficult access to water, women, and girls are the ones who ensure their water supply, doing up to 80% of the work.

Rural women play a key role in agriculture, which is vital for rural development and food security. Recognizing this, in December 2007, the UN declared 15th October each year as the International Day of Rural Women.


Statistics on women working in agriculture

In the study “The Role of Women in Agriculture”, conducted by FAO and the Agricultural Development Economics Division, it is estimated that between 60% and 80% of women living in developing countries work in agriculture. However, the statistics rarely give a reliable number. Why? Many women do not receive an economic contribution for their work, as in the case of harvesting or weeding, and see themselves primarily as "housewives". Furthermore, most of the studies conducted either take a very small sample size or do not have a similar methodology that allows for data comparability.

Another reason why getting definitive figures proves complex is because farming is not a linear process like "planting a seed, growing crops and delivering them to their destination"; behind the food that reaches our tables lies a complex chain that involves different factors such as manual labor, land, economic investment, as well as services including animal power or machinery, seeds, fertilizers, and water. Measuring the contribution of each gender by phase and division has been a challenge for many studies and, so far, no reliable conclusion has been reached.


What problems do rural women face?

Since COVID-19 and as part of the celebration of the International Day of Rural Women in 2020, the UN reported that during the pandemic rural women were more exposed to vulnerability, with little access to basic health and hygiene services and infrastructures, such as water and electricity. 

Their land and resource rights have also been affected, jeopardizing their legacy and widening the gender gap, an issue we have previously discussed in this blog.


Why is it important to recognize rural women?

Looking beyond the statistics and divisions, one thing is undeniable: women play a decisive role in farming, whether recognized or not, at whatever stage.

Legislation is needed to enable them to have rights over the land they work on and their labor, and a concerted effort is needed to raise awareness of their work, contribution, and empowerment, which in turn would facilitate analysis and the presentation of plans to help strengthen and recognize their work.

As a result, this will lead to greater food security, which will allow for an increasingly reliable and, above all, fairer supply.


To celebrate their work, we have organized this video in collaboration with women who work in rural areas and who have also found a way to communicate and make their activities visible. There is still a long way to go, but we can see more and more traces of their footsteps.

Read it or stream it fresh produce industry insights every week.

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