Global agricultural sector in need of more women to deliver ‘global food security’; leaders call for equality in science

By on
Woman working for agriculture
A Pasona O2 employee cares for a vegetable which is being grown using light from light-emitting diodes (LED) during a photo opportunity at Pasona O2, an underground farming facility that promotes interest in agricultural work and demonstrates modern and alternative farming technology, in Tokyo February 1, 2007. Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Policy and business leaders are calling for gender equality in the global agricultural sector, arguing that more women are needed in food security and changing the “global culture” for science. The Clinton Foundation Vice President, Chelsea Clinton, said that women are "crucial, vital and necessary" in delivering global food security.

The leaders gathered at the 2015 Borlaug Dialogue in the U.S. and discussed the "fundamentals of global food security." The event aims to inspire young women to build their careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

One of the speakers, Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, the director of the Kenya-based African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (Award), said that globally, there is a need to increase the number of women scientists, but the priority is to settle a “conducive environment in which they work.”

“It is as much about institutional transformation as it is about investing in individuals," she said.

Kamau-Rutenberg pointed out that the problem in the working environment for women does not only occur in Africa or even as a cultural problem, as the challenge can also be observed in the UK, across Europe and in the U.S. The global culture in science and the gender gap are both needed to be addressed across the globe.  

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has released a report that shows that gender gap extends to access to agricultural resources and opportunities. FAO stated that closing gender gap in agriculture would help provide significant gains for the sector and the society.  

"If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent," FAO added. Kamau-Rutenberg told the BBC that investment in women scientists would solve the problem of the low number of available researchers.

In line with this, Award is offering a career development programme for high-potential African women and agricultural scientists to develop their technical skills. In the programme, Kamau-Rutenberg said that at least half of the mentors are men, which allows them to engage in the journey of investing in women scientists.

However, Kamau-Rutenberg noted that there is no point in leaving behind the conversation about gender and the roles of men and women in agriculture on the farms. There is also a need to transform the landscape of research and development, and the presence of both men and women is significant in setting the research agenda, Kamau-Rutenberg added.

Contact the writer at feedback@ibtimes.com.au or tell us what you think below.

Join the Discussion