10 reasons why we support women farmers

Photo: Sven Torfinn/Panos Pictures/ActionAid

Ever wondered why we've chosen women farmers as our focus in the battle for food rights? Here are ten good reasons why. Can you think of any more?

1. It’s only right

This isn’t charity – it’s justice. Women farmers have an equal right to land, a right to food and all the other human rights international law has established. When women farmers are systematically discriminated against, those rights are not being respected.

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2. It’s great value for money

Supporting agricultural development has been shown to be the best value for money investment aid donors can make to improve economic outcomes in developing countries. The need to invest more in agriculture has already been agreed by world leaders[1], and since most farmers are women it makes sound economic sense to invest in them.

3. It’s dumb not to

Most agricultural policies and support programmes are designed for men by men. This means that their services and technologies are not designed for the majority of farmers – women. This means they are not very effective – which is just dumb policy.

4. Majority rules!

Women produce around 70% of all food consumed[2] in the developing world and up to 80% of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Women are doing most of the work, so why wouldn’t we support them?

5. Support where it’s most needed

Despite being the majority, women farmers in the developing world receive just 1% of the credit loaned to farmers, and just 5% of the technical training[3]. We’re committed to helping them correct that inequality.

6. They are the future

The future of agriculture must include supporting smallholders (mostly women!) who supply rural populations. The alternative – to push these people off their land to the cities – will not solve food security problems but massively worsen urban poverty.

7. Freedom! Choice!

Supporting women farmers is also about supporting families to make their own choicesabout their futures. Successful small farms deliver the economic freedom for women and men, and their children, to make choices about their education, their work, their communities and their future.

8. Not doing it has been such a failure

Despite decades of global economic growth and billions spent in agricultural subsidies to rich country farmers (mostly men) the world today has over 1 billion hungry and malnourished people (80% women and children) and over 1 billion overweight and obese people.[4] Nice job guys!

9. Fair’s fair

Women are already doing more than their fair share of work. The UN’s International Labor Organisation[5] confirms that women are already doing significant amounts of unpaid work including water and fuel collection, childcare and caring for the elderly and disabled, as well as running their smallholdings without pay. Supporting women farmers is about sharing the burden of rural livelihood between women and men.

10. Because they've asked us to

ActionAid doesn’t presume to have all the answers or know what’s best for people. So we asked rural women[6] in developing countries what they wanted, and it is their voice we ask you to listen to.


[1] Rome Declaration on World Food Security 2009

[2] Agriculture at the Crossroads synthesis report IAAKSTD 2009 Pg 9

[3] Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ‘Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture: A roadmap for stakeholders, World Economic Forum, 2010.

[5] ILO. 2010. Give Girls a Chance. Geneva: Switzerland

[6] Fertile Ground – ActionAid Aug – Nov 2009.

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