Nov 1, 2021
16 Women You Should Know Who Are Creating A More Sustainable Food System
Editor’s Note: The following list details some of the many women leading the charge in the agricultural industry. As there are numerous women in agriculture around the world specializing in technology, operations, business development, and more, this list is not exhaustive but rather meant to illustrate the variety of ways in which women are creatively solving the world’s food crisis.
Women have long been the cornerstone of the global agricultural industry.
On average, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women make up 43% of the agricultural workforce and 47% of the global fisheries labor force. In the United States, according to the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, nearly 1 million women are working America’s lands. Representing nearly a third of the nation’s farmers, these women generate over $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.
Yet, in the 2020 Global CEA Census, we found that only 28% of respondents were female founders (and just 15% in our 2019 report).
Regardless of their geographic location, gender-specific restrictions and challenges put female farmers at a disadvantage. We rarely see female agribusiness founders or women in agriculture in positions of power.
Why is this the case and why is it important?
According to the World Economic Forum, less than 20% of landholders are women. And, in some parts of the world, women still cannot legally own or control land. This makes it difficult for women to enter contract farming agreements that could provide higher earnings and reliable sources of income.
There is a crop yield gap of about 20-30% between male and female farmers due largely to differential access to resources and inputs. FAO estimates that if female farmers had the same access to resources as men, 150 million people could be lifted out of poverty.
Smallholder female farmers in low-income countries face challenges with borrowing money. Without adequate funds for capital investments, they’re less likely than men to buy and use fertilizer, drought-resistant seeds, use sustainable agricultural practices, and other advanced farming tools and techniques that increase crop yields.
Today, we’re seeing more interest than ever before in urban agriculture and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) amongst women. As can be seen in the chart to the right, the percentage of female visitors to Agritecture’s website has been steadily increasing each year, from just 35% of total visitors in 2017 to 45% in 2021.
Here is a list of 16 women fighting through these numerous challenges to create a more sustainable and equitable agricultural industry: