by Curlan Campbell
- Women in agriculture face constraints to training, machinery, and new technology
- Women farmers face increasing knowledge gap
- Joint programme aimed at human security for women farmers and small agro- and fisheries business entrepreneurs
UN agencies including FAO, UN Women, UNDP, and ILO have embarked on an initiative toward the development of policies that will enable women to drive rural economic growth within the agriculture sector and reduce poverty.
This particular focus on gender inequality within the agriculture sector was prompted by the glaring lack of proportional representation of women in agriculture, which continues to undermine progress toward sustainable agricultural development. In this regard, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has moved to implement a joint programme aimed at contributing toward human security for farmers and small agro- and fisheries business entrepreneurs, primarily focusing on women.
These initiatives will see a combination of policy reform advocacy, technical support, and services being promoted in participating territories, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, and St Lucia for a duration of 3‐years. In addition, according to the UNDP website, small grant support will be offered for livelihoods development and will target approximately 2,500 farmers, fisherfolk and small-business entrepreneurs with at least 50% women and 25% under 40 years, reaching 12,500 people.
On Friday, 8 April 2022, a panel discussion on the Human Security Approach, Policy and Small and Women Farmers in the Eastern Caribbean was held by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as part of the joint programme ‘Building Effective Resilience for Human Security in Caribbean Countries: The Imperative of Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in a Strengthened Agriculture Sector’ being implemented by UNDP, UN Women, FAO and ILO. This panel featured speeches from Minister in the Ministry of Finance for Barbados Hon. Ryan Straughn; Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs in Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Samantha Marshall; Minister for the Public Service, Home Affairs, Labour and Gender Affairs of St Lucia Hon. Virginia Albert Poyotte, and Minister for Agriculture of Grenada, Hon. Peter David.
UNDP Resident Representative Valerie Cliff stated that women in agriculture, in particular, face a variety of obstacles and constraints that their male counterparts do not — including lack of access to training, machinery, and new technology.
“The agriculture sector in the region and the subregion today contextualised by poor access to land, low productivity and low access to market, credit and finance a rapid increase in food import bills unlimited food security and the need for sector way modernisation and Climate Smart agriculture. These issues were all highlighted by the communique on regional food and nutrition security at the 33rd inter-sessional meeting of the heads of government of Caricom held in March of this year in Belize. It requires that we expand our thinking to find solutions to these issues and to create equitable opportunities throughout the sector specifically for small-scale and women farmers.”
In the region, most of the farming population, particularly women, lacks the economic resources and capacity to invest in appropriate agricultural technologies, as well as the knowledge to implement improved agricultural practices.
UN Women Representative Tonni Ann Brodber said that because of the disparity in access, women farmers face an increasing knowledge gap. She spoke of the role of the UN in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5) which identifies the need to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls within the Agriculture sector.
“The women who make up the substantial confidence of the labour force and agriculture, but I’m not often seen because they are the small sector farmers that they get that support as well to policy level commitments which promote and facilitate the meaningful participation and growth in the sector. Through careful review and assessment of the land and business registration and agricultural and small business support programmes as well as the incentive schemes we’ve been able to support mapping and developments of where and what services are available to support smallholder farmers especially women farmers fisherfolk and women small business entrepreneurs.”
“As such, the ParlAmericas and UN Women Toolkit which you can find on the Parl gender tools website on structural adjustment programs in agriculture which will be launched today demonstrates our continued commitment to this region and to the facilitation of a broader understanding, especially among key decision-makers of the respective needs of women and men, boys and girls in all of their diversities so that we must work collaboratively and in true partnership through gender-responsive and transformative development,” she continued.
Brodber made reference to the ParlAmericas, which is the inter-parliamentary institution that promotes parliamentary diplomacy in the inter-American system. ParlAmericas works to strengthen democratic governance in North, Central and South America and the Caribbean by enhancing the ability of legislators to fulfil their roles and responsibilities through exchanges of parliamentary best practices and by promoting cooperative political dialogue on regional issues. It promotes gender equality, promotes women’s political leadership and gender mainstreaming in the agendas and operations of member parliaments.
“Our work through the sustainable development goals fund to address unpaid care work is an effort to also bridge some of the digital divide as well as the work that is done in policy to ensure that the investment being made in those are most needed a really delivering on the investment. We also seeking to see the ways in which we can use my digital currency mobile banking to increase financing for all of these issues so that when the financing is available, those most marginalised small set of farmers whether they be women or men have the skill set to be able to access the financing and apply the financing,” Brodber added.
Joint Programme Coordinator-UN Trust Fund for Human Security (UN Women) Multicultural Office Caribbean Angela L. Davis, provided an introduction to the ParlAmericas’ Gender Equality Tools for Parliamentarians in the Caribbean. An online portal has been developed on the ParlAmericas website https://parlgendertools.org, in order to share those tools. It is expected that these toolkits will be officially launched in the coming days. One of 6 toolkits to be launched is Agricultural Policy: Integrating Gender Equality and Human Security.
According to the ParlAmericas website, a number of ways were identified for policymakers that will help facilitate the integration of gender equality and human security under the Agricultural Policy. These include:
- Ensure women and men’s participation: Ensure that women and men actively participate in policy-making processes and benefit from policies and related programs, projects, and further activities. Where women are underrepresented (for example in workshops and training), you can specifically reach out to women and encourage their participation or think of launching an initiative that specifically targets women. Such a proceeding is called affirmative action.
- Collect and use sex-disaggregated data: Make sure that policy-related quantitative and qualitative data are collected and used as the basis for policy formulation. This also entails ensuring that you are fully familiar with women’s and men’s distinct vulnerabilities and needs, capacities, and skills in the respective area of concern.
- Apply inclusive language: When you communicate — and this includes the written formulation of policies — use inclusive language. This means using non-discriminatory vocabulary; making gender visible when it is relevant for communication and not making gender visible when it is not relevant for communication.
Meanwhile, the first of two-panel discussions was hosted on 25 February, where regional farmers and farming NGOs discussed the issues impacting them and policy implications.