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Contributions for Focusing on Rural Women in a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Framework

Barack Kinanga Save the Children UK, Sudan
FSN Forum

Received through LinkedIn

The level of poverty, social and economic disruption of post conflict environment affects men and women in different ways. There a larger proportion of women headed households because men are active combatants in the war and therefore women take larger roles in bringing up the families. Substantial resources must be invested on women . Although women are more vulnerable to the effects of conflict, their activities are aimed at improvements of the well being of their families. Its often not a wrong choice to make women an entry point of rural development.

Katy Lee International Agri-Food Network, Italy

Please accept the contribution below from Rose Akaki, a smallholder farmer and member of Uganda National Farmers' Federation

We are at the a time when food security and hunger eradication are taking the centre stage in as far as we reflect on the challenges we are bound to face when the world’s population reaches 9.5 billion in 2015. Where will more food that is meant to feed the world come from, considering that land size will remain constant, people the world over are already experiencing the effects of climate change;  and that women farmers are at the centre of food production?

My area of focus will be on the women farmers of Uganda; the challenges they face and how these challenges can be addressed to enable these women feed the growing population.

The Challenges

(i)            In Uganda, 80% of the farmers are women. Of this, 90% are rural smallholder farmers who produce about 60% of the food that feeds the country. However, these women own only 1% of the land they use for farming.  This is mainly acquired through purchase. The rest of the land is under the control of the men as land ownership in Uganda is a preserve of men and control over what is planted on such land is dictated by them. For instance, it is sad to note that in most cases they usually use such land for growing tobacco which does not contribute to sustaining food security. This implies that the size of land women use for agriculture is very limited. Whatever is produced on such land is limited to household consumption. Besides this land is over-used and has low fertility.

(ii)          Out of every 100 workers in a farm in Uganda, 75 are women (Government of Uganda Gender and Productivity Survey 2011). 43% of this massive labour force is not paid and provide labour in their family farms. Considering that a woman has other roles she plays in a home and that agriculture is labour intensive, and requires 4-5 hours of a woman’s working time, it is evident that her productive time will have been reduced because her time for care work competes with that for agriculture. This implies that if a woman is to produce food that will sustain the world population, then her means for food productivity has to be improved so that she can produce for the household and the market.

(iii)         Limited accessibility to farm inputs and technology such as fertilizers, improved seeds, agro chemicals, ox ploughs and tractors. Tractors as well as animal drawn ploughs are still in limited supply.  As a result, women farmers continue to open land using the hand hoe, a factor responsible for the small scale production and delayed planting. Besides, a majority of the smallholder women farmers can hardly afford improved seeds, planting and stocking materials, agro-chemicals and fertilizers due to the high prices.  Even the distribution of the agricultural inputs suppliers is still limited and the women farmers find it tiresome to travel long distances to buy the improved inputs.

(iv)         Lack of affordable Farm Credit.  Up to now, very few farmers are accessing affordable Farm Credit. The interest rates remain high thereby preventing farmers from borrowing. The situation is worse with women rural farmers. In Uganda, only 10% of the women farmers have access to grants offered to farmers by government. The condition to accessing this grant is through groups. The criteria for membership in a group may also make some women fail to join such groups.

(v)          Poor marketing system.  Smallholder women farmers produce and market as individuals.  As a result they fall prey to the middle persons as they have no bargaining power. Secondly, in Uganda, access to market is basically limited to men and yet whatever little a woman earns from the proceeds of the farm, she will use it to  improve on the livelihood of her family. On the contrary, most rural men would squander theirs on drinks.    

(vi)         Limited on-farm value addition.  Majority of the womenfarmers continue to sell their produce without any value addition.   This is the major cause of the low earnings they get from production.

(vii)        Ineffective agricultural advisory/ extension services. This impact on productivity of the land in use. Access to agricultural information is very vital. A farmer irrespective of gender must get the knowledge and skills to enable them improve on their farming practices with a view to increasing food production and income to their families.  This area is worsened by the fact that there are few  trained women agriculture advisory and extension workers. Women feel they can easily access the services of fellow women than men.

(viii)      Effects of Climate Change.  The effects of Climate Change have been experienced in different forms, the worst being the frequent droughts which seriously affect both crop and animal production. This is of course worsened by the fact that most of the smallholders entirely depend on weather for production. The rain patterns have changed and left the rural farmer who reads the sky for signs of rain confused. A lack of an effective weather forecast system makes it difficult for such farmer to plant their crops at the right time.

Way forward

In order to enhance women smallholder farmers’ efforts to food security and sustainability, governments, National farmer organizations, financial services providers, civil society organizations and other relevant bodies should work in collaboration and ensure the following are done:

(i)            Provision of good quality seeds and planting materials.  Support should be extended to the seed companies to enable them multiply adequate quantities of seed which seed should be distributed by the companies.  This will help to ensure that farmers get good quality seed. 

(ii)          Promotion of fertilizer use in areas with low soil fertility.  Deliberate efforts should be made to promote fertilizer use by farmers in such areas.  Also efforts should be made to repack the fertilizers in quantities that suit small holder farmers and are hence affordable.  Packages of 50 kgs at  over Shs.120, 000 are note favorable to a smallholder farmer.

(iii)         Enhancing mechanization.  Individual farmers as well as farmer groups that are eager to procure tractors should get government support to acquire them.  This will go a long way in alleviating the labour shortages for land preparation and will improve on women’s productivity time since they will make use of less energy but produce more for home consumption and for the market.

(iv)         Promotion of value addition.   Appropriate arrangements should be put in place to enable organized farmer groups to access the agro-processing funds designated for small scale farmers.  Maize Shellers, Rice Hullers and Cassava Mills should be given priority.

(v)          Climate Change mitigation and adaptation.  Special attention needs to be put to mitigating the bad effects of Climate Change and addressing all possible adaptation measures.  Water harvesting techniques should be given emphasis and sizeable investment should be put into promoting irrigation. 

(vi)         Improvement in the marketing system.   Farmers should be encouraged and supported to market collectively.  Those that belong to groups (SACCOs) should be supported to put up good storage facilities through which they can link up to the Warehouse Receipt Systems.

(i)            Animal diseases control.  Farmer’s ability to control animal diseases is still limited by hindrances to access drugs such as de-wormers, acaricides and vaccines.  Some of the drugs are either not readily available within the vicinity of the farmers or they are too expensive.   Support should be extended to the local stockists and the Veterinary Staff in the field facilitated to respond to the farmer’s needs.

All these interventions need concerted efforts with the different actors playing certain roles, especially Governments, Farmers’ Organizations and civil society organizations. These can play different  but complimentary roles as follows;


  • Put in place enabling policies that ensure sustained agricultural production.
  • Ensure policy implementation. One of the key challenges is that there are so many good policies especially in Uganda which are not implemented particularly those that target women’s access to land.
  • Increase budgetary allocation to the agricultural sector to support very important components like agricultural research.
  • Provide the necessary infrastructure e.g. roads, cold chain, etc.
  • Provide extension services to the farmers through local governments.
  • Provide meteorological information to farmers so that they can plan their farming activities better. This can be through local radio stations (FM channels) or through short message texts (SMS).

Farmer Organisations

  • Monitoring the implementation of the different government policies and giving feedback to government
  • Building capacity of farmers/members through training in areas where tere are gaps in practice
  • Providing extension services to compliment government services since they do not reach everywhere.
  • Mobilize farmers for different things like bulk marketing.
  • Provision of market information to farmers/ members (information dissemination)

Civil Society organizations

  • Lobbying and advocating for farmer friendly policies (act as a mouth piece of the otherwise voiceless women farmers).
  • Sensitizing the community on the rights of men and women to own and use land for food production.
Katy Lee International Agri-Food Network, Italy

Please accept the contribution below from Cesarie Kantarama, a woman farmer from Rwanda and part of the Eastern Africa Farmers' Federation

Women play a huge role in rural and urban economies. The majority of them are the rural women that their participation in sustainable development is significant. So, investing in rural women is one of the solutions for promoting food security, fighting against poverty and promoting well being. As a contribution of this topic some points are proposed:

  • Promoting  education of girls and women
  • Promotion  of  equal opportunity of management to resources, assets and land tenure rights
  • Promotion  of  participation in private sector
  • Promoting the  rural entrepreneurship
  • Empowering  women’s collective activities
  • Prevent violence against  women
  • Training  on agriculture techniques and environment protection
  • Training on marketing
  • Promotion of   smalls rural  processing unit
  • Access to credit and saving
  • Improving  women participation  in value chain system
  • Infrastructure to impact positively the work of rural females (transport , safe water,day nursery ……)
  • Rural women international day shall be valorized  by all level .



Paul Rigterink Potomac Technical Advisors, United States of America
Paul Rigterink

1. If you had made an intervention at the side event on rural women at the 8th session of the Open Working Group in New York, what would have been its key message?

The FAO needs to create "demonstration farms" in various rural regions and climatic zones that will accelerate sustainable development for rural women.  For example, suppose the FAO started a “demonstration farm” on one hectare of tropical/arid land to show poor rural women, who in the past earned $2/day, how to make a better living.  How much money would the FAO spend on the following:

  • Cost of borrowing money
  • Land rental
  • Land clearing
  • Land tillage
  • Farm equipment
  • Fencing
  • Water use
  • Irrigation equipment
  • Seeds and nursery stock
  • Fertilizer
  • Pest control
  • Disease control
  • Fungicides
  • Packaging the products
  • Marketing theproducts
  • Transport
  • Farm insurance

Given the list above, what investments would the FAO expect a rural woman, who earned $2/day in the past, to invest in her farm?  What investments made by the FAO "demonstration farm" would not be made by a poor woman farmer?  How does the FAO make their “demonstration farm” more realistic to the needs of a poor rural woman farmer?  Based on FAO estimates and pactical experience in different regions, how much of a microloan would rural women need in order to substantially achieve food and nutrition security in the future?


Gomathy Venkateswar , India
FSN Forum

Dear Friends,

Last December on a visit to a village in Pune (State of Maharashtra) in India, I found all along both sides of the highway, in front of small trestle tables women selling organically home grown turmeric powder an essential ingredient in Indian cooking. It also has great anti-septic properties, and has been patented by the Indian government as an Indian commodity, where it is used for cosmetics and medicinal ointments. I stopped to buy the neatly packaged turmeric powder , which grows from a rhizome, and is  easily grown ina small patch of earth.

This is truly a sustainable income generating activity, which probably many rural womendo have access to, but needs promotion for marketing. In South India similarly, the Tamarind Tree that yields another sour, tangy fruit whose pulp extract is extensively used in Indian cuisine, grows profusely along highways as Avenue trees as it provides a large leafy canopy that provides shade in the scorching heat of summer, is also used to market its product. However this occupation of picking and processing it is taken over by government contractors and middlemen. If this could be given over to women in the rural areas after it has been picked from the trees, the labour that is involved in shelling the raw fruit and then drying it in the sun after de-seeding it, can be a sole women's activity. It would gain a big income for them.

Our country has a great source of products from forests and its bio-diversity of trees and plants which are very often medicinal in its content. If rural and tribal women whose knowledge of these trees and plants is handed down to them from generation to generation, what a great boost to their lives.

Gomathy Venkateswar.

Member on IFUW Committee on Fellowships.

Member on the Project Grants Committee of the VGIF.

Member of Soroptimist International of South Kolkata.


Prof. Amin Al-Hakimi Yemeni Association for Sustainable Agriculture Developement - ...

Thank you very much for your efforts in food security issues and the role of rural women, but during  the 30 years of my carrier in agriculture research, development, education I do not find that there are slight progress in supporting the great works conducting by rural women in food security behind other roles in protecting natural resources. There are no lessons learning and adaption from the previous succeed projects conducted in the same country or from others countries which have the same intensity of needs and problems of food in security?? Why also we separated food security and drinking water?  Local food system,

I gave these examples about Yemen, Nowthey  prepare for conducting the new project of GFSP which will be funded by world bank during the few months this year, where i think the role of rural women are neglected, and country like Yemen more then 70% of womn leaves in rurral areas and thier resposable for produces thier food and water which I prefer if the most of this project should planned to support the role of producers rural women in rural areas and their contributions in food security, and review the initiatives done before and experiences in this field.

Senait Regassa Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Ethiopia
Senait Regassa

I think the need for finding solutions for gender inequality is understood by all development practitioners and I commend the initiative for this online discussion.

The contribution I would like to make with regard to the topic of discussion is that one should not consider rural women as one homogenous group that faces similar challenges and discrimination. I am saying this because a preliminary analysis of data collected in a field assessment in a couple of pocket areas in Ethiopia in 2010 showed that there is difference in access to and control over resources and information between women heads of households and women in male headed households, the latter group being better off. My suggestion is to do detailed analysis to understand variation among rural women in order to be able to come up with ways of addressing the challenges faced by the different groups.

Senait Regassa
National Program Officer
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation


Mr. Nuhu Danboyi M4D, Nigeria


Taking this from from bottom up this time, i think the result can never be far-fetched. Issues of food security and nutrition, having women involved is a discussion to be looked at from the community stand point. It is common in most of our communities that women have poor or no access to most of the good things of life, they are still burdened by stereo types while cash crops are synonymous to men.

The innovative way to get this women involved is to try get them organised, create the air for them where they can gather voices that can discuss stories of how they are catalyst of change. The entire SDG framework could be designed in such a way as to begin to involve women, an all inclusive approach, in policy formulation that bothers on food security and nutrition. The targets should be that the capacity of rural women is build to meet the constant challenges that comes with newer Agricultural practices around the globe. Women should be supported to start engaging with policy makers and service providers at the grassroot as to be included in the mainstream of decision making, where they can have talks on their livelihoods as individuals not as appendages to some dictatorial concesus.

This will ensure a cataclysmic paradigm shift from a one sided bulk that has made growth stunted, especially in the developing countries.

Santosh Kumar Mishra Population Education Resource Centre (PERC), India
FSN Forum

Note: Prepared for contribution to side-event [to be hosted by: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), & World Food Programme (WFP)] focusing on rural women in an SDG Framework at the Eighth session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

  1. If you could make an intervention at the side event on rural women at the 8th session of the Open Working Group in New York, what would be its key message?

Market economy trends in the new era of globalization have widened the gap between education and technology opportunities for men and women. Women are a great human resource and their role in the society is vital for its progress. The involvement and engagement of women in the present day information society on an equal footing with men would directly contribute to improving the livelihood of people, making it more sustainable and thereby promoting the social and economic advancement of societies.

Science and technology brings economic growth and well-being to people. Undoubtedly, science and technology can be vastly enriched through women’s involvement, which closely links to the empowerment of women through science and technology. It is not the concern of one nation only, but there are many players and stakeholders in the aim to reach this millennium goal. Women empowerment may be through innovative scientific activities, integrating action oriented literacy, sound micro-finance and micro-enterprise training as well as an understanding of legal rights and advocacy. Apart from the efforts of the United Nations family of organizations, multilateral bodies and civil society, the positive role of women also depends on the supportive attitudes of their local family unit, the local community in each village and town.

  1. Rural women are often described as critical agents of change in discussions on sustainable development goals. To what extent would the achievement of food and nutrition security for rural women help accelerate sustainable development? 

Rural women are key agents for development. They play a catalytic role towards achievement of transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. But limited access to credit, health care and education are among the many challenges they face. These are further aggravated by the global food and economic crises and climate change. Empowering them is essential, not only for the well-being of individuals, families and rural communities, but also for overall economic productivity, given women’s large presence in the agricultural workforce worldwide.

Given equal resources, women could contribute much more. If women farmers (43 per cent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries) had the same access as men, agricultural output in 34 developing countries would rise by an estimated average of up to 4 per cent. This could reduce the number of undernourished people in those countries by as much as 17 per cent, translating to up to 150 million fewer hungry people.

  1. Of the many facts or stats recorded on rural women, which one do you consider to be the most revealing?

The main problems of rural women can be divided into four main categories economic, social, family level and individual. Most of the problems are connected to the social and political change and transition taking place in the countries. For many rural women and families, the transition from one system to another has meant increased economic problems and a loss of paid labor and unemployment. In private agriculture the main problem is low income levels. For many rural women the economic problem is dependence on their husband's income.

Dr. Santosh Kumar Mishra (Ph. D.)
Technical Assistant,
Population Education Resource Centre (PERC),
Department of Continuing and Adult Education and Extension Work,
S. N. D. T. Women's University,

Hans Friederich International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, China
FSN Forum

Dear Moderator

Please find below the contribution from INBAR

1. If you could make an intervention at the side event on rural women at the 8th session of the Open Working Group in New York, what would be its key message?

That bamboo can provide rural women with round the year subsistence and income generating opportunities, leading to greater security and resilience, for themselves, their children and their households.

The rural woman is the Queen of the Backyard, it is her territory.  Without having to venture far from their home, away from their children, they can grow bamboo in homesteads, and produce a range of products, or just sell the bamboo for income.  Bamboo enables reach to the widest range of market opportunities of any renewable natural resource. It grows on land not usable by food crops, and is drought tolerant. When all else fails, the bamboo will still be there. Bamboo is harvestable round the year; it can give a regular monthly income. The monthly pay check is the most valuable for all us urban folk. It can be so for rural women too.

2. Rural women are often described as critical agents of change in discussions on sustainable development goals. To what extent would the achievement of food and nutrition security for rural women help accelerate sustainable development?

Rural women have proven to be the best savers. They are very large in number. Drops of money do make buckets of investible capital. The achievement of food and nutrition security would make much of the savings available for productive investments rather than consumption. In Rajasthan, India, several thousand women have invested in a biomass briquette company. This has helped valorise the waste non-fodder biomass that is commonly burnt and raised their annual income by 30%.

3. Of the many facts or stats recorded on rural women, which one do you consider to be the most revealing?

That 500 million women around the world in 500 million poor rural households cook food for their families twice a day, each of the 365 days in a year, using firewood.

Firewood is renewable biomass, nearly all of which is sequestered CO2, one that should be celebrated rather than shunned. These 500 million women can be at the forefront of the fight to reduce global warming by fixing more of the CO2. INBAR has made the 2x365 times/year firewood cooking process an income generating one through valorising the waste charcoal and incentivising efficient burning. The waste charcoal so produced is 3x the global commercial charcoal production. In Tanzania, income of single mothers has risen 3-fold through this process, allowing for them to independently provide for their children. Bamboo is the most productive and renewable biomass in the world, and can help. It is used as firewood. Women in Rajasthan, India, are now incentivised enough to plant productive bamboos in their homesteads and farm bunds. Soon it will be adequate to meet their annual firewood needs. Not only will deforestation for firewood get reduced, but there will be reforestation and ecosystem improvement too. This is a market driven sustainable development system with no subsidies and a good ROI.

Hans Friederich

Director-General, International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) 8, Futong Dong Da Jie, Wangjing, Chaoyang District P. O. Box 100102-86, Beijing 100102, P. R. China