Empowering Rural Women in Agriculture

Without access to affordable technology, women are responsible for processing crops manually or with rudimentary tools.

It is undeniable that all women around the world play a vital role in the functioning of our society. From the contexts of large cities to small villages, women are entrepreneurs, mothers, businesswomen, and community figures, among numerous other roles. But in rural villages, women and girls’ substantial role in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing, has been increasingly recognized.

Established by the United Nations in 2007, the International Day of Rural Women recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agriculture and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

Current Issues for Rural Women

Women and girls in rural areas suffer disproportionately from multi-dimensional poverty. This is a systematic problem. “Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms continue to constrain women’s decision-making power and political participation in rural households and communities… every gender and development indicator for which data are available reveals that rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and that they disproportionately experience poverty, exclusion, and the effects of climate change,” states the United Nations.

Groundnuts (peanut), are shelled by hand in the absence of shelling equipment.

Though women and girls have the same potential as men to play an active role in eradicating poverty, they lack equal access to public services like education and healthcare, productive resources and assets, and infrastructure including water and sanitation. Furthermore, much of their labor efforts remain underpaid and often unpaid.

Rural Women in Agriculture

Women account for a substantial proportion of the agricultural labor force, making significant contributions to food production, food security, land management, and building climate resilience. Their role is so significant that one in three employed women work in the agriculture sector and almost half of the world’s farming population is comprised of women.

However, women face many barriers that hinder their ability to be as lucrative and productive as their male counterparts. Because women are less able to access land (in many countries laws inhibit women from owning land), financial streams, inputs, markets, or technologies, neither their ability nor efforts are rightfully compensated. 

Water collection is another domestic chore that is often the responsibility of women and children.

Women are particularly responsible for postharvest processing and food preparation. Although postharvest labor is an imperative step that allows our global food system to operate, it is in many cases considered a domestic chore and not acknowledged. Even more, the women who conduct these labor-intensive jobs are too frequently ill-equipped with the appropriate resources needed to efficiently and profitably process and store food. They often do not have access to tools, which means they are processing food by hand or with rudimentary tools.

Scientific studies have concluded the need to technically arm women with postharvest tools and knowledge as a means to help reduce losses during food processing. This will not only reduce economic shortfalls but help increase food security in their communities and the world.

Time to Change the Rhetoric:

At Bountifield International, we recognize that agriculture and gender equality are inextricably linked. Across Africa, women account for an average of 60% of the agriculture workforce yet have less access to beneficial resources that are more often available to men, including business education, technical support, and financial capital. This leaves many women to rely on traditional, manual labor methods that consume a significant amount of time and energy, are extremely inefficient, and physically strenuous. Time constraints and drudgery restrict women from fulfilling their full business potential, keeping them trapped in a poverty cycle from which it is extremely difficult to break free.

We want to change this. Through engaging women in business development programs and by providing our time-saving tools, we can close the gender gap and help women more efficiently process, sell, and benefit from their crops.

A woman speaks at a technical & food safety training at a Food Technology Centre in Malawi.

The Women of Bountifield

Lucy Igunda is a mother of three and a successful working woman in agriculture. At her farm in Kenya, she supplies East African Breweries Limited (EABL) with sorghum for brewing beer, aggregates maize, and grows and shells  groundnuts. Before her partnership with Bountifield, her production was done by hand or with old “traditional” manual threshers which is inefficient and physically mandating.

To increase productivity and revenue streams, Bountifield helped Lucy to procure a MS-100 motorized maize sheller and provided business training. “I realized that I will not only be able to grow my business earnings, but at the same time help farmers around me and create employment, by offering shelling services of maize for now, and in the future explore shelling groundnuts. Through the training so far, I have learned a lot about record keeping, budgeting, offering quality customer service and market access planning.” Lucy explained. 

The motorized sheller Lucy received from Bountifield will help her to save her time and labor, allowing her to process more crops in time to sell them for the best price on the market. She is also creating rural employment opportunities for her son as he will work as a sheller operator. Since she will be able to help other farmers process more of the yield with her fee-for-service maize shelling business, Lucy is contributing to a more sustainable food systems by reducing postharvest food loss while saving time for farmers in her community and increasing her income. This is how we can make global food systems more resilient together.

Lucy with her son who will work as a an operator for her maize shelling business.

Help Us Reach More Women Like Lucy

If you want to help more rural women like Lucy reach their full potential and build a more resilient global food system, we encourage you to donate to our She Feeds Africa, She Feeds the World fall fundraiser. With your gift, we will be able to provide more access to postharvest technologies to reduce food loss across Africa and to increase the supply of nutritious food available – creating a more equitable society for all. Join us today as we rethink food systems that work better for everyone.