Though agriculture is often seen as a man’s field, there is no doubt that women play a vital role in advancing it. This International Women’s Month, it is important to understand women’s role in feeding the growing population.
Every month of March, the Philippines celebrates National Women’s Month through Proclamation No, 227 s. 1988, signed by the country’s first female president, Corazon Aquino. This celebration is dedicated to women’s contribution to nation-building and the importance of women empowerment in transforming society.
Despite the usual stereotypes, the vital contribution of women in the different sectors of society cannot be denied. One of these is in agriculture, where the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 41% of the workforce were women. Though their roles vary from region to region, women make invaluable contributions to the agricultural sector such as preparing the fields, sowing seeds, and harvesting crops. On top of their work on the farm, women are also in charge of a variety of household roles, as well as taking care of their families.
According to Marivic Dubria, a coffee farmer from Mindanao, women are even preferred over men in picking and sorting coffee beans because of their patience and meticulous work. Dubria also shared that more and more women are now taking more active roles in farming, thanks to more inclusive seminars and workshops involving women. Dubria, whose coffee beans have gained fame in the international market, highlighted that the perceived female trait of an inclination to emotion is not a weakness, but a strength in farming operations. Empathy, determination, and meticulousness of women farmers are vital in boosting the efficiency of coffee production and improving the taste of the coffee beans.
How to help increase the number of women in agriculture? Providing a more accessible education is the key, according to Mary Yole Apple Declaro-Ruedas, a farmer and rabbit raiser in Occidental Mindoro. She shared that while society is getting more inclusive, there is still a lot of effort needed to push for the gender gap in the agricultural sector. From wages to opportunities, there is still more work to be done to shape the landscape of local agriculture. However, the continuous increase of women agriculture professionals help drive change and inspires more women to take an active role in agriculture.
Women empowerment is also seen as one of the ways to unleash agriculture’s potential. According to International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Director General Jean Balie, it is a common misconception to see the rise of agriculture as mere work of men, when in reality, women have already taken a variety of roles in establishing agricultural societies and in the physical aspects of early food production. However, he highlighted society’s inclination to patriarchal structures. “They have become invisible contributors to the global food system. Their ability to contribute to agriculture at their full potential has been hindered by gender-specific constraints that include exclusion from decision-making, lack of intuitional support, and no legal rights to land ownership,” he shared in a statement.
This National Women’s Month, it is important to remember the contribution of women in developing agriculture and help in voicing their concerns to help agriculture realize its full potential. Happy National Women’s Month!
Featured photo: Some of the women changemakers in local agriculture previously featured in the Agriculture Magazine.