A Call to Action for the feminization of agriculture mechanization

September 24, 2017
(Photo by Ranak Martin/iDE)
Toward Global Scale

Women still lack access to agricultural machinery, despite their increasing role in agricultural productivity due to male out-migration.

The rising rural-to-urban migration of men has impacted the gender division of labor in farm families, with women left to care for both the young and the elderly alongside managing farm-land and food production. Although the remittances that men send back have in many cases been beneficial to acquire more land and hire labor, in general, migration is resulting in labor shortages and reduced agricultural production.

Male out-migration has resulted in greater workload for women and the elderly. These women and older men often do not have the physical capacity to carry out time and energy consuming tasks previously taken on by young men, such as ploughing and planting, and families either depend on hired labor if they can afford it, or end up limiting agricultural operations. The result is therefore reduced agricultural production leaving families food insecure.

Inclusive Agricultural Mechanization

Agriculture mechanization is essential to labor and land productivity reducing drudgery for women and the elderly and enabling them to complete laborious and time consuming agricultural tasks.

Despite the centrality of women to agricultural productivity in light of male migration, women still lack access to agricultural mechanization.

Men, despite being away, often control decisions over large expenses. Also, technology designed to ease the burden of some tasks, such as water pumps, is traditionally operated and maintained by men. Women do not typically receive training on how to use agricultural technology and they are often too heavy for women to operate.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that equalizing access to productive resources for female and male farmers could could increase the yields of women-led farms by 20 to 30 percent, increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5 to 4 percent, and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.

The feminization of agriculture offers an exciting opportunity for increased and inclusive agricultural mechanization at the farm level. Since mechanized work has been associated with paid agricultural work, creating a culture of women-run mechanized agricultural tasks also presents women with income generating opportunities.


A call to action

To ensure women’s successful access to agricultural technology, it is crucial to consider technological design and market system constraints. A human-centered design approach that uses qualitative investigation to gain insight into the desires, opportunities, and constraints around a specific problem would allow for an iterative design process to identify solutions that are feasible, viable, and desirable. By conducting market investigations and designing solutions that speak to the incentives of all relevant market actors, the social and cultural norms that limit women from purchasing and using technology could be overcome.

Inclusive ag-tech is the key to sustainable agricultural production and food security. It’s time we took it more seriously.

Inclusive ag-tech is the key to sustainable agricultural production and food security. It’s time we took it more seriously.

Tagged — Gender Equity
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