Women leadership in agriculture

On women month day, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that 40% of all department’s procurement should be reserved for women.

“We have made gains in advancing women’s rights, in broadening women’s access to education, in the provision of health care and social support to women, and in improving their participation in the economy and decision-making” he said.

However, a 2012 Human Science Research Council (HSRC) study titled ‘inequalities in agricultural support for women in South Africa’ indicated women remained marginalized even thou there were more women involved in small-medium scale farming than men.

It said that by far the majority of those women involved in agriculture did it primarily as a main source or extra source of household food. “In these two categories women exceed men by 37% and 65%, respectively.”

At the heart of such marginalization is the construction of the working environment that is suited for men’s needs.

Dr. Lorraine Corner author of Women’s Participation in Decision-Making and Leadership. A Global Perspective 1 said that even when women succeeded in gaining education and entering the decision-making mainstream, they are often marginalized by an institutional setting “that reflected men’s needs and situation and ignores women’s different needs and experience.”

Her analysis mirrored those of the HSRC, that in agriculture, there seemed to be little understanding of gender awareness by researchers and officials.

“They need basic training in these skills and disciplines in order to comprehend the realities encountered at the farm and household level to enable them to develop appropriate technologies and provide suitable services required by diverse types of farmers” the HSRC report tabled.

Apart from the work professional setting, women in leadership roles also faced marginalization of a different kind – no power neither influence to make decisions independently.

In South Africa, strides were made to include women in upper echelons of management both in government and private sector. Yet, in looking at some of the agriculture associations, trusts, and government, (evidenced by corporate charters) women did not have the full powers to make independent decisions.

Dr Lorraine Corner further said that such amorphous behaviour represented a major loss for society as a whole.

“Women’s needs, interests and concerns are not just those of women themselves, but reflect their primary roles as mothers, wives and caregivers. Therefore, incorporating a woman’s perspective in decision making should result in better decisions that more adequately reflect the needs and interests of children and families (including the male members).”

To amend this ongoing anomaly, women in agriculture in some parts of the globe where getting organized.

The United States of America (USA) was leading the way in the participation of women in decision making. A census conducted by the US Agriculture Department in 2017 revealed that “36% of U.S. farmers were women and 56% of all farms had at least one female decision maker.”

At last count, there over 20 agricultural bodies formed and lead by women from Almond Board of California, American Agri-Women, Animal Agriculture Alliance, COO MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences), National Women in Agriculture Association.

Unity of women has even led the US Department of Agriculture to design a programme called Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network, with the goal to link these women “not only on the farm, but leading youth organizations, conducting cutting edge research at universities across the country, in the boardrooms of global corporations.”

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