Recognition and Visibility: Exposing gender in farming 2.0



Gaudiose Mujawamariya, CGIAR GENDER Platform, AfricaRice
Janna Luisa Pieper, Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany

Start-up women farmers in Germany: An organic avant-garde challenging gender stereotypes?
Due to demographic and structural change, the number of farm managers in Germany decreases whereas the size of the farms is increasing. Despite this development, a growing number of organic farmers is calling for a systemic change towards a more sustainable living and farming, also known as “repeasantization” (van der Ploeg 2008). Among this organic niche there seems to be a growing amount of start-up women farmers. In order to set up a farming business as a woman, without inheriting a farm site or land, one has to “marry a farmer or win the lottery”, as one interviewee stated. Therefore it is not surprising that only 10% of the farms in Germany are run by women (DESTATIS 2017). This contribution refers to the first results of the qualitative research of the nationwide project on the living and working situation of women on farms in Germany funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture Based on biographical-narrative interviews (Rosenthal 2004) with start-up women farmers, the following questions are addressed:

  • Which opportunities are available for women in order to build a farming business besides taking over the family farm?
  • What are the biographical backgrounds and motivations of female start-up farmers?
  • What is their farming philosophy?
  • How do gender dynamics and perception of gender roles impact start-up women farmers?
  • Could supporting women to start farming businesses be a measure to achieve a more gender-equitable agriculture?

This contribution presents first results and conclusions of this ongoing qualitative research.


Steven Michael Cole, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Who does what and why? Intra-household roles and explanatory models for sourcing soybean seed from the formal sector in Malawi
While knowing who does what within the household may improve agricultural development program targeting to meet the needs of women and men, it may be equally important to know the rationale behind why individuals carry out certain tasks (i.e., their explanatory models) and whether the reasons indicated explain any more of the variation in household outcomes than that which is explained by who does what. Using survey data collected in Malawi in 2018, this study asks whether there is utility in knowing who sources soybean seed within the household (wife, husband, or jointly together) and why when explaining variation in seed obtained from the formal versus informal sector. The study sample comprised respondents who were in a marital relationship at the time of the survey (N = 399, 44% female and 56% male). Their responses to why individual(s) source soybean seed within their households were categorized according to the explanatory process they typified following a recent study by Bernard et al. (2020). These variables were included in a logistic regression model along with those representing who sources soybean seed and several covariates. Results suggest that the identity of the person who sources seed has little to do with whether the seed was obtained from the formal sector. Instead, why the person sources soybean seed is the better predictor. As formal seed system actors mobilize to persuade more smallholder farmers to adopt improved varieties, understanding why people source seed may be key for targeting and when designing agricultural development interventions.


Tanya Watson, National University of Ireland, Galway

Women’s farm property ownership and gender equality in Ireland
An increasing number of women living on family farms in Ireland own farm property. Ownership of farm property is not effective on its own and requires women to be in a position to make key decisions about what is done with their farm in terms of production, distribution and disposal of assets. Drawing on recent qualitative research based on interviews with twelve women farm property owners in Ireland, women’s personal experiences of property ownership are explored. Women’s pathways into ownership through inheritance, lease, purchase and legal partnership are compared to highlight factors that both constrain and enable women’s transition to ownership and control of farm property in Ireland. Strategies women farm owners use to overcome constraints are discussed through the activation of various resources they use to strengthen their positions and create opportunities for themselves. This presentation considers the possibilities women’s farm property ownership holds for their active participation in agriculture and decisions affecting their family’s livelihood. As women farm property owners claim an identity in farming operating within the context of family farming, are there opportunities for greater gender equality and change?


Annelie Gütte, Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF), Germany

Constructing or empowering the female coffee farmer? How gender research in agriculture talks of gender issues in coffee cultivation
While women and their contribution to coffee production gain visibility, it remains fuzzy how gender research talks of gender equality and women empowerment in coffee cultivation. Using methods of discourse analysis based on a systematic literature review, this contribution strives to highlight how the current scientific debate on gender issues in coffee cultivation is structured. It aims to disentangle main narratives, attributed agendas of promoting gender equality, topics associated with this, and the identification of relevant boundaries of respective socioeconomic and socioecological systems including the potential group of beneficiaries and affected actors. Results indicate three major narratives: (1) coffee cultivation experiences a significant feminisation trend; (2) gender inequalities and women’s marginalisation remain prevalent in coffee cultivation; (3) the ‘feminisation’ of coffee cultivation is a purposive construct neglecting realities of female farmers. (1) and (2) largely concentrate on actors of the respective socioeconomic system. Although discourses (1) and (2) mostly centre on women, they also take into account their families (e.g. in terms of nutrition and health) and the socioecological system as a whole (e.g. in terms of biodiversity). (3) takes into account beneficiaries largely represented by actors of the upper value chain with a strict economic interest in encouraging women to participate in coffee cultivation. This implies that gender research in coffee cultivation has not reached consensus and that the debate affects actors and processes beyond women only. Acknowledging this helps to lift gender research in agriculture from its status as side issue to a central aspect of a sustainable and just transition of agricultural systems.


Shiferaw Feleke, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Understanding the factors and structure of gender inequality in crop productivity: The case of cassava in Tanzania
Several studies have documented the gender-productivity relationship, suggesting that women exhibit lower average agricultural productivity than men. The relationship is established based on a unitary household model, which erroneously assumes that all household members equally share household resources. Besides, they are estimated using standard linear regression and decomposition techniques (e.g., Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition). As an improvement over unitary models, collective models have recently been applied. However, like the unitary models, collective models are also estimated using standard linear regression and decomposition techniques, providing average estimates of gender effects. Such techniques, although helpful, do not reflect the productivity effects of gender in all parts of the productivity distribution. They only estimate the mean effects. However, mean effects are insufficient to appropriately target public policies because the effects of differences in endowments and returns to the endowments may vary between men and women not only at the mean but also at other points in the productivity distribution. This study aims to understand the factors and structure of gender inequality in cassava productivity. We applied the quantile decomposition method proposed by Machado-Mata (2005). Results revealed gender inequalities in cassava productivity, with men exhibiting higher levels than women due to differences in endowments and returns to the endowments across different quantiles of the productivity distribution. The results shed some light on the potential entry points for targeted gender-sensitive policy interventions to reduce the gender productivity gap in the cassava production system in Tanzania. We used an existing data set from a household survey conducted with 1047 farmers in Tanzania.