Unleashing the Potential of Women as Agricultural Producers and Entrepreneurs

Posted by Jonathan Shrier
September 20, 2011

Greetings from the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with distinguished leaders from the government, civil society and the private sector about "Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security." In a discussion moderated by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, she was joined by Jakaya Kikwete, President of Tanzania; Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International; Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever; Reema Nanavaty, Director of Economic and Rural Development for the Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA); Jose Graziano da Silva, Assistant Director-General of the FAO and former Brazilian Extraordinary Minister of Food Security and Fight Against Hunger; and Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Secretary Clinton convened this panel to review the evidence for investing in women farmers, and targeted global leaders who are involved in agriculture (sourcing, training, farming) already, but who may not consider women as explicit targets of their investments. Women make up 43 percent of the global agricultural workforce, 50 percent in parts of Asia and Africa, and are the outright majority in over 30 countries around the world. However, there are well-documented gender disparities in access to credit, seeds, fertilizers, and other modern technologies. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that equalizing access to productive resources between female and male farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5 to 4 percent, and although it doesn't sound like much, this could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by as many as 150 million. The more than 13.3 million people at risk of starvation due to drought and famine in the Horn of Africa -- primarily in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia -- are a painful reminder of the urgency of meeting the challenge.

Under the U.S. Feed the Future initiative, Secretary Clinton also announced a call for proposals under a $5 million USAID research program on women in agricultural development. USAID Administrator Shah emphasized that this is just one piece of our efforts to unleash the potential of women as agricultural producers and entrepreneurs -- but crucial for understanding what works.

The discussion served its purpose too. Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, discovered in the course of preparing for the panel that women are often his firm's most productive agricultural producers. However, after reviewing some preliminary evidence and listening to the discussion yesterday, he explained that "I was looking at the report we were writing […] the "Business 20" input into the G-20. And again, I'm ashamed to say we look at all the recommendations we make on increasing investments in agriculture, R&D, making it more sustainable, looking at nutrition as a driving factor, all the things that I'm sure you're all well familiar with. But again, we failed to look at it from the angle of women."

Polman continued, "So one of the commitments I made this morning to someone -- and I'll make it here publicly -- that I'll take this report back [… ] with these statistics that the Secretary shared with us -- if we could make that come alive, indeed it will go a long way to filling the gap of the 70 percent that we need in production to meet the world's projected food needs in 2050."

That's exactly the kind of outcome the Secretary and the Feed the Future team were hoping for.



United States
September 20, 2011

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

There is no "food security" as long as genetically-modified crop experiments continue to be permitted.

It's junk science to believe that changing a gene or a few genes will produce only one change in result.

Changing a single gene could produce thousands of changes in DNA not only in humans, but in other animal species, and even insects such as honey bees could suffer grotesque changes in genetic makeup.

Imagine a honey bee that produces a deadly poison instead of honey, and you might be able to imagine what kind of accidents could happen.

Genetic experimentation on the entire human population should be considered a "crime against humanity", but that is exactly what is happening today. These GM foods are not tested long term, and no genetic damage evaluation has been made for all species that come in contact with those crops, so it is one big experiment on all life forms on earth.

I would like to see a huge wave of lawsuits filed in courts to stop genetic experiments with the food supply - the danger far outweighs any conceivable benefits derived from genetic experimentation.

It's the same as throwing darts while blindfolded except chance of injuring multitudes of people is far higher.

United States
September 20, 2011

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

Every woman who wants to feed her baby some genetically-modified, experimental food substance, raise your hand.

What? Nobody?


How about vaccinating your child with vaccine containing live cancer virus, AIDS, Mercury, and God only knows what else?

Any support for that?

It's all well documented that this is happening today. Some things the drug industry doesn't want you to know.

The question every woman should ask herself is, do I want to risk my child's life upon some UN recommedations?

Are our recommendations outdated?

Do we really know very much about what the UN recommends to others? What don't we know?

Why do we not read more to discover our lack of information? What are the odds that we are wrong and how many lives are at risk from our lack of knowledge?

Joanne D.
California, USA
September 21, 2011

Joanne D. in California writes:

I am an American female farmer, and what you are trying to do is wonderful on a global scale. I am a caretaker; not an owner of my own land, however I want to be an owner and start raising cows; alongside grow and cultivate Orange, and Olive Orchards. Can someone please e-mail me in how I can apply for land for my farming future and the future of others? I can also align my company with several local colleges in their agricultural programs. I can teach and help other farmers; male and female the trade of building, and maintaining a wonderful farm. I am also four courses away from my Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Management; with an emphasis on Leadership.

Thank you for your time, and I will look forward from hearing from you.

Diane M.
District Of Columbia, USA
September 21, 2011

Dr. Diane S. in Washington, DC writes:

Right on! And when women make more income, they are more likely to spend it to support their families.

September 21, 2011

John in Canada writes:

@ Zharkov in the U.S.A - chances for human error are very high in all fields.

The question is if we act or don't act to a certain situation - will it make any difference at all?

Take global warming - I for one think we should avoid dirtying our world. Will our pollution destroy us though?

Imagine if all pollution was stopped, we drove electric vehicles - would we be any safer from global catastrophe?

I think not. 5 extinctions have taken place without our help. Our world heaves and hoes in ways we neither understand or can stop. Even if all 7 billion people became devout disciples of environmentalism we would be in as much danger as we are in right now.

Its like health issues the experts constantly study and revise healthy lifestyle issues. If we all exercised and ate what the experts say - would we stop illness, would we stop dieing? No - what would the experts say when things don't change that much - just a shift in what will kill us and when?(which creates a whole new set of problems)

Food production is imperative these days but old methods of farming and GM crops will prove to be a big let down at times they are needed most.

Frankly it would be nice if the experts could not only acknowledge the problems we face in real common sense terms but devise solution to succeed and thrive what ever the case maybe.

To date they are in my opinion failing in both areas.

The failure to put problems into real perspective and not some artificial half @ssed way does lead us to creating bigger problems for ourselves in every facet of what we do. Sometimes the solutions we devise becomes a much bigger problem.

Example - Would it not be better to develop a solution for the pollution, while at the same time ensuring are survival and success through disaster we cannot control? I would add to this at the same time creating more food and better health?

Monolithic ideas lead to monolithic failures.

Reducing our problems to simplistic unrealistic data sets while ignoring what may be inconvenient and obvious is a costly way of failing and failing big.

We need Ideas that deal with issues in a much more synergistic way - forget about killing 2 birds with one stone - kill a dozen.

I would add that we have along way to go at stamping out corruption - (more or less its what you are saying in a broad sense - given the need for the UN is born out of our collective ability not to do the right thing, its easy to view them with suspicion -corruption kills people, our ideas and our future)

Have a great day

keep slugging away madam secretary and remember the best solutions start with the most creative Ideas from those that have vision and believe anything is possible.

United States
September 21, 2011

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

@ John in Canada:

Human errors can often be fixed but genetic accidents are irreversable. Genetically- unintended consequences are forever, unless contained within a laboratory. Once released into the environment, there is no stopping genetic mutations.

I try not to mix global warming with global pollution, as they are quite different issues.

Global warming is a solar event, not human-induced. Solar output far outweighs everything we do on earth. Prehistoric earth had at least 30 times more CO2 than we do now, and the plants loved it. Nocturnal CO2 emissions from plants and trees help us to sleep at night. Plants need CO2 to survive.

Pollution is a different issue. The Plutonium pollution from Fukushima, and from over 1042 atomic tests by the US and hundreds of others around the world, are definitely government-made and need to stop.

Industries in China, Japan, and India, have polluted their nations to a disgusting extent, and their governments should be concerned about their own future.

Fake maps showing Greenland melting, fake temperature data, exaggerated models, bogus claims about polar bears drowning, all have produced global hysteria over a natural change in the climate.

The UN's false claims about global warming have been revealed over the past few years and are no longer credible. They've been fully exposed as frauds perpetrated to enable public acceptance of carbon taxes. What the world needs is a climate of truth in government, not another tax to lower the world's populations deeper into poverty.


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