Equal harvest: Report on the gender gap in smallholder agriculture


Women comprise 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries but own far less land and livestock than men, have less access to agricultural credit and are less involved in coops and decision making bodies.

Nevertheless a recognition of the role of women farmers in agriculture is rising steadily on the policy and business agendas, including a growing commitment from companies and donors to invest further in empowering women in agricultural supply chains

The new report by the Fairtrade Foundation ‘Equal harvest: removing the barriers to women's participation in smallholder agriculture’ (executive summary here) explores potential barriers to women’s involvement as members, leaders and salaried employees of Fairtrade certified small producer organisations (SPOs).

Case studies were carried out with six SPOs in the Dominican Republic (bananas), India (cotton) and Kenya (tea), and a workshop was held with representatives from Fairtrade certified organisations, supply chain businesses and development agencies, in a joint effort to understand barriers in different contexts, and to identify steps which could be taken to overcome them.

The report identifies three main barriers to women’s active participation as members, leaders and employees. First of all there are the producer organisations’ rules, structures and practices which tend to favour men; secondly the sociocultural norms, practices and customs related to the role of men and women in society and finally women’s individual circumstances and choices related to their status, education, wealth, degree of support from relatives and experience in other organisations.

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These barriers are connected and interdependent and they are in turn linked to the wider context in which women and SPOs are situated. This context includes national laws and government policy (e.g. governing distribution of land and membership of co-operatives) and local institutions such as the justice system, religious bodies and popular culture, as well as international standards, conventions and market dynamics (including those related to Fairtrade International).

Pulling down these barriers and increasing the participation of women could raise their income, influence and independence, as well as delivering benefits for businesses and supporting global development efforts. Shivani Reddy, policy manager of the Fairtrade Foundation, says that “Research shows that when women are in control of more household income, there are improved development outcomes in areas such as health and education, and businesses can also turn women’s involvement into a selling point”.

As well as looking at how supply chain businesses, governments and civil society organisations can better support women’s empowerment, the report also makes a number of recommendations for the Fairtrade International system. It for example recommends: to ensure clear and sustainable financing, complemented by third party finance, for the implementation of Fairtrade International’s gender strategy; to engage the support of external partners to advise and inform implementation of the gender strategy; to develop and communicate the business case for increasing women’s participation in SPOs.

Here you can find all policies briefings and reports by the Fairtrade Foundation, including the full report ‘Equal Harvest’ and its executive summary.


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