"When women are empowered and can claim their rights and access to land, leadership, opportunities and choices, economies grow, food security is enhanced and prospects are improved for current and future generations.
Women are the backbone of the development of rural and national economies. They comprise 43% of the world’s agricultural labor force, which rises to 70% in some countries.
In Africa, 80% of the agricultural production comes from small farmers, who are mostly rural women. Women comprise the largest percentage of the workforce in the agricultural sector, but do not have access and control over all land and productive resources.
During the last ten years, many African countries have adopted new land laws in order to strengthen women’s land ownership rights. This has helped improve the situation of rural women.
To this effect, the lack of appreciation of the role of rural women in agriculture is harmful and gives rise to a lack of specific policies, policies which are misdirected, high levels of poverty, illiteracy and non-involvement in the design and planning of programs and policies, which involves a process of mutual learning that reflects the real and specific needs of rural women.
Despite the important roles they play in agricultural economies, rural women in Africa suffer from the highest illiteracy rates and are the most visible face of poverty.
Women guarantee livelihoods, especially in rural areas. As a result of their great efforts in agricultural production, women’s production helps to guarantee their self-sustenance.
This is still not enough, however, to cover other needs, such as health care, paying for the education of their children or the acquisition of other products and goods which are necessary on a day-to-day basis since they have a limited financial capacity caused by an inefficient supply chain and poor conservation of their surpluses.
Connected with these problems there is also the issue of climate change, which includes irregular rainfall, floods, droughts and cyclones, whose effects have a greater impact on rural women and make their life difficult.
Rural women have to walk, moreover, long distances to carry water and fetch firewood, which is harmful for the health of humans, causing high rates of infant and maternal mortality, reversing progress in education and endangering food sovereignty, as well as food security and nutrition.
Agriculture is the main alternative for Rural Women, and it should come with better access to land and resources for the prevention, adaptation and mitigation of climate change, combined with rural women learning how to deal with cultural resistance and adapting to various manifestations of this phenomenon.
Realizing the importance of rural women in agriculture is an important aspect of gender relations. In many countries, the role of women in agriculture is considered just to be a "help" and not an important economic contribution to agricultural production.
Social customs dictate, moreover, that women, especially rural women, should - in addition to agricultural activities - be responsible for cooking, carrying water and fetching firewood, limiting their participation in decision-making processes and their exposure to those economic opportunities that arise, thus increasing the level of inequality vis-à-vis their partners.
Nowadays many governments tend to pay more attention to the agricultural sector than ever before