The Future of Sustainable Farming Lies in the Hands of Women and Children

Sustainable farming has proven to be a rewarding practice both for people and the planet.  Though gender roles are deeply rooted in many communities, educating women on agricultural growth is becoming more widely accepted. The benefits of encouraging women in agriculture extend to the entire family both in terms of health and economics. At this time, many organizations are working to study the roles of women in subsistence communities and spread knowledge, which can help to promote global change.

The Challenges of Women Farmers in the Third World

In the past, women were often seen as less capable farmers than men. However, recent studies in third world countries show that women farmers lacked key resources due to the separate gender roles of their communities. For instance, they often had less access to basic education, labor assistance and even fertilizer. A study in Kenya showed that when women were given equal access to these resources, they increased their crops by over twenty percent. Another formidable barrier for women lies with property rights. According to gender roles, women in many cultures cannot own land. They are forced to rely on male members of the family in order make changes to the land that may be necessary for improved returns. Women in Nepal are responsible for gathering the household firewood, for example, but they cannot plant trees. As the region faces deforestation, these women have fewer options for sustaining family wood supplies.

The Benefits of Empowering Women Farmers

Women reclaiming sustainable livelihoods; Spaces lost, spaces gained; Edited by Wendy harcourt

“With the 20 year review of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development to be held in Brazil in 2012, this book boldly reclaims the concept of sustainable livelihoods for women. Authors from 10 different countries show how women engage in policy decision on climate change and consumptions, managing solidarity economies, farming, micro credit, value chains, and strategies in post-conflict contexts.”

When women gain higher status, their children typically receive better nutrition and have better health overall. This is largely because the women themselves experience improved health, and they are more able to care for their children. Studies in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America yielded the same results: when women gained approximately equal status with men, child malnutrition rates decreased.

The empowerment of women is also essential in controlling the spread of HIV. HIV/AIDS affects agriculture because illness and loss cause fewer members of the family to participate in the agricultural duties, and the disease can also decrease the social status of a family. When women gain in status, they have more access to economic stability which also helps them to avoid the virus. With empowerment, they are also better able to care for the sick.

Seminars and Workshops Create Change

Gender roles are deeply ingrained in communities, and while the benefits may be clear, social change is always a challenge. Spreading awareness about wise agricultural practices can serve as a bridge to creating social empowerment for women in farming communities. The Rural Women’s Project provided a workshop series in 2011 which helped women share their agricultural knowledge on topics such as permaculture, agri-tourism, organic dairy and family business management.

Holistic Management International is another group that seeks to aid farmers in staying on their land. They give periodic workshops on results-oriented programs. At the 2011 Global Sustainability Forum in Brazil, programs which targeted safe drinking water for children achieved commendation. These are just a few small and large organizations which spread awareness and knowledge regarding farming issues for people around the world. As we seek to better understand ourselves and the nature of the earth, we can better assist agricultural families within the global community.


University Alliance submitted this article on behalf of The University of San Francisco’s online program. The University of San Francisco provides all the tools and resources necessary to gain a supply chain management certification, and a sustainable supply chain management certification online. For further information please visit

  2 comments for “The Future of Sustainable Farming Lies in the Hands of Women and Children

  1. February 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Even during the primitive era, men are the ones responsible to provide for their family. They are the ones who are being groomed to be farmers and laborers. These are practiced by most cultures. To them, women are born to be caretakers of the family only.But nowadays, both men and women are seen equally. Women are respected for the great work that they contributed in our society. I am grateful that today women are not only followers but some are also great leaders.

  2. February 9, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Women have always done a lot of the farming, particularly in areas like Africa and the middle east. I’m so glad women have opportunities to learn more now, and then make a difference, especially in producing food. Maybe if women had been more involved from the beginning we wouldn’t have gone quite so conventional, but I guess we’ll never know.
    At least the pendulum is swinging back the other way now.

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