The role of women in agriculture cannot be underestimated. They play very significant roles which include farm management and post-harvest handling of farm produce in the area of value addition. Women are directly involved in the production of the world’s food. They comprise 43% of the world’s agricultural labour force, and they make up to 70% of the labour force in some countries.
In rural areas, women are the ones that oversee: rearing of poultry and small livestock. They are responsible for feeding, growing food crops with low economic value, leaving the men to handle the cash crops although they assist men in managing them. Women play a vital role in supplying labour for food production. In countries like China, women are the ones responsible for harvesting agricultural produces like seed collection and separation, cotton and fibre collection, winnowing and threshing of rice, beans and other grain crops. Making of hay and silage for livestock animals are also done by them. Packaging of farm produce is also a very important aspect of food production which women are directly involved in.
Mindless of the important part that women play in agriculture, many women in most countries are challenged by infrastructural and cultural matters that influence their participation and the overall returns and social recognition that they get. A major challenge faced is limited access to education. Some societies pay little or no attention to the education of women.
In some other societies such as Northern Nigeria, restrictions are placed on production and income-generating potentials of women as they are limited to producing low-income food products while the men deal with the areas of agriculture that command more economic value. For instance, tomatoes, chilli and onions production are tagged as men’s job while okro and leafy vegetable production is regarded as women’s job. Many women do not have access to extension programmes which are meant to enlighten the farmers of new technologies thereby keeping the women in dark of the improving technologies and techniques for farming. In some states in Africa, women are not allowed to engage with outsiders of the opposite gender and as such, are limited in acquiring new information.
Women also lack access to natural resources that are useful for agricultural practices. Land as a major need for agricultural practices, women don’t have the rights to claim ownership of these lands, only men are allowed access to these. Most times women are not allowed to take part in decision-making processes. They are not given access to machineries and are granted little or no access to credit loans whereas if they are given opportunities to these facilities, there are high chances that they would be able to provide for needs of their families and wouldn’t have to be dependent on others, considering the fact that they take a major part in agriculture.
Considering the important roles that women play in the agricultural society, there is a need for more enlightenment against gender discrimination in the areas of agricultural engagement, education and opportunities. In areas where the feminine voice is still being silenced, gender equality and women rights should be addressed. Women engagement in decision-making processes should be allowed and they should be allowed to participate in and use social development facilities as this would further facilitate the achievement of food security and sustainable development in agriculture.