Gender in Agriculture and Rural Development

Agriculture is one of the most widespread activities in the world and has a crucial role in food production, environmental protection, landscape preservation, rural employ­ment and food security. Agriculture is not uniform through­out; there are different elements such as: the scale of farming, Intensity of farming, crop and livestock combinations, ways and means of disposal of farm produce and the level of farm mechanization among others.
While agriculture is the major food producing sector, rural development is related to the promotion of the vitality of the countryside and the well‑being of rural communities. Rural areas provide food, raw materials, jobs and a wide range of environmental goods and services such as cultural landscapes, biodiversity, carbon storage, water and soils.

From a gender point of view, there are significant gaps between women and men in the rural agricultural sector, for example, women farm holders have significantly smaller farms than men farm holders. Moreover, the share of female farm holders is par­ticularly high on farms with no clear specialization in live­stock rearing or crop production.
Women provide a large proportion of the labour of rural agricul­tural production, even though official statistics based on census and survey instruments often underestimate wom­en’s work and its contribution to national wealth. Problems persist in the collection of reliable and comprehensive data on rural women’s work in agriculture and other productive sectors because of, invisibility of women’s work, seasonal and part‑time nature of women’s work; and un­remunerated family (mostly women and children) labour.

Women are a driving force for the maintenance, conserva­tion and development of rural areas, both in cultural and economic terms. They contribute to the preservation of a rich and diversified cultural heritage and the transmission of traditions. They also represent a considerable propor­tion of the workforce in agriculture and contribute to the development of the rural sector in the face of constant de­population. Unfortunately, women in rural areas are also an invisible force as their presence and role are not accurately reflected in statistics. Many of those who are involved in agricultural work do not receive a separate income from their husband or other male members of the household. By assisting their farmer husbands and other self employed men, they are not entitled to social security in their own right and often do not hold property rights to land or farms.

Therefore, the advancement of gender equality in agriculture and ru­ral areas faces some major obstacles. For example, the une­qual participation of women and men in agriculture and ru­ral development, and the under‑representation of women in farm ownership and agricultural decision-making. Furthermore, in the agricultural sector women occupy few managerial positions. Their role is often linked to farming within the context of household production or unpaid support to the work of men, and is therefore not included in the value chain.
Women’s contribution to local and community develop­ment is significant, but rural women are a minority in decision-making and planning. While this phenomenon is significant in all economic sectors, it is particularly present in the rural agricultural sector. This is due partly to their multiple roles and workload, but also to the persistence of traditional views about women’s and men’s roles in society. For exam­ple, this is often seen in land ownership and control. i.e, Farms run by women are generally smaller than those run by men. In terms of physical and economic size, the farms of men farm holders are more than twice the size of those of women farm holders.

To overcome these problems in the Northern districts of Uganda, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) with support from NWO-WOTRO had to come up with gender equality initiatives to ensure women’s full and effective participation in the ERIGNU project (Enhancing rice/green gram productivity in Northern Uganda) especially in the areas of decision making, leadership and their general agricultural roles. Intensive gender equality trainings were conducted in the project districts to make the men aware of the important roles women play in the agricultural sector. However, the roles of men were also not under looked. Before the trainings on gender , there were stereotypes like :- Only men owning land, only men having the rights to sell farm produce, only men participating in the agricultural decision making among others.
When it came to the ICT sector, the women were not given a right to own mobile phones or radios.

The trainings on gender played a big role in promoting gender equality in the project districts of Apac , Kole and Lira and it has indeed improved livelihoods of the ERIGNU farmers in the project districts.


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