Rural women: protagonists of development

The International Day of Rural Women established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007 is an opportunity to reflect on the role they play in promoting agricultural development, promote its recognition and implement clear measures to guarantee the full and effective enjoy your rights.

According to UN data, rural women represent 43% of the agricultural workforce. However, less than 20% of those who own land worldwide are women. The vast majority today face constant discrimination when it comes to land ownership, fair remuneration, participation in the decision-making of associations, and access to resources, credit and the market, so that their crops can flourish.

At the same time, we observe their growing role in the defense of biodiversity and in the socioeconomic and cultural maintenance of the communities where they live. They are primarily responsible for sharing knowledge, which ranges from the history of their region to technical knowledge, such as proper crop nutrition.

For these reasons, it is essential to vindicate its role in our society and recognize its enormous contribution to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. As a woman, mother and agronomist, my experience has convinced me that it is possible to boost the economy and improve the quality of rural life, if we promote gender equality in the countryside. Agricultural sustainability has a clear social axis: the empowerment of rural women. To guarantee food security, it is necessary to promote female participation and leadership; The United Nations estimates that reducing the gap in labor force participation rates between men and women by 25% by 2025 could increase global GDP by 3.9%.

It is a virtuous circle: if women have access to resources, knowledge and new digital tools and technologies, the yields and quality of their crops can increase substantially, generating higher income for their homes, jobs for their neighbors and well-being for us, the consumers, with healthier and more nutritious food. Women reinvest up to 90% of their earnings in their homes, money that goes towards food, healthcare, school and income-generating activities, which help break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. According to the FAO, agricultural production in developing countries would increase between 2.5% and 4% and the number of undernourished people in the world would decrease between approximately 12% and 17%, only if women had the same access to the earth than men.

A greater participation of men and young people, in the care of the family and the home, will allow them to dedicate more time to their own education and the construction of social fabric in rural areas, and men will be able to enjoy their own families.

The food industry must put its own grain of sand. As part of the articulated work that involves different sectors, private companies play a strategic role, because they provide training and more efficient technologies, to support the transformation of the reality of rural women. Such is the case of initiatives such as the Yara CHAMPION Program, which exalts best practices and rewards the discipline and commitment of Latin American women farmers. We recognize the efforts of these food heroines, who maintain their homes and simultaneously promote efficient, profitable and environmentally responsible crops. We will continue working to dignify and improve their living conditions, since, with their work, they contribute to the sustainable development and food sovereignty of all nations.

* Director of Yara Farming Solutions for LATAM.

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