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Latin America and The Caribbean

08/11/2017

How to help women in family farming achieve their full potential?

Nearly 2.6 million women run farms in the region. Technical assistance and rural extension with a gender-based focus are key to their success. 

Woman in Antigua, Guatemala

The role women play in family farming in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is becoming increasingly important, but truly unleashing their full potential requires a transformation of the technical assistance and rural extension systems with a gender-based focus, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

A new FAO publication analyzes the technical assistance and rural extension systems in Guatemala, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, and Brazil, providing a series of recommendations that can improve the impact of these systems on rural women in the LAC region.

“If these systems are well-designed, they can contribute to overcoming gender inequalities. If poorly designed, they can replicate and even further deepen existing inequalities between men and women,” explains FAO Gender Officer Claudia Brito.

According to the publication, technical assistance and rural extension public services in the region still do not consider women to be active participants in the productive process of family farming.

For decades, governments in the region have designed their programs and projects based on a logic that considers society to be a homogenous group, without gender or race.  

“Today we know that a different vision is necessary, one that recognizes the differences and inequalities women have to face and to know how to provide them with the assistance and training they need,” Brito comments.

Problems with the current systems

According to the FAO publication, technical assistance and rural extension (ATER according to its acronym in Spanish) systems can be effective means for promoting women’s access to resources, financial and productive services, technology, and knowledge in order to improve their economic opportunities.  

This would require changing the current systems, incorporating a gender-based focus and a multidimensional vision of poverty reduction.

The ATER systems currently suffer from a series of deficiencies from a gender perspective: the proportion of female to male users is very low and the resources specified for each female user are less than those invested in each male user.

In addition, the FAO publication emphasizes that many of the issues addressed in technical assistance and rural extension activities aimed at women are limited to the domestic and reproductive arenas.

Due to a lack of support, in various cases, the women wit access to ATER programs are unable to apply the proposed recommendations, or rather they apply them without obtaining the anticipated results.

An increasing number of women in the field require more assistance

According to FAO, gender inequalities are one of the structural causes of social inequality, which is clearly reflected in the situation of rural women.

On average, only 16% of the farms in Latin America and the Caribbean are run by women, for a total of 2.6 million women in the region.

Although the percentage is low, it is the highest of the various developing regions around the globe, including Asia and Africa, where the figure is lower than 15%.

In 2011, nearly half of the people working in the regional agricultural sector (48%) were women; however, a large number of those women were informal temporary laborers.

“Both the women running farms and female laborers require technical assistance and rural extension policies and programs that are specifically designed for them,” according to Brito.

Please note that this article was not originally written in this language.
This article is incomplete. Click here to read the full text from its original source, FAO Americas
Photo Credit: David Dennis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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