Rural women managing households are real-life CEOs


At Copenhagen MDG 3-Conference, IFAD Vice-President to speak for women small farmers

Rome and Copenhagen, 23 March 2010Ahead of the MDG3- Conference: ‘Women's Empowerment and Employment' on 25 March, 2010 in Copenhagen, Yukiko Omura, Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) called women small farmers the ‘CEOs of rural areas'.

The one-day conference hosted by the Danish Government, aims to propose recommendations on how to accelerate and enhance employment for women to achieve the third Millennium Development Goal (MDG3), which is related to women's empowerment and international development.

Prior to the conference, describing the critical role of women as small farmers and traders, food producers and home managers, Omura said, "Women farmers grow, buy, sell, cook food and feed their children. They perform the majority of the agricultural work and, on a global scale, women cultivate more than half of all the food that is grown."

She added that their work is no less than that of CEOs of organizations and companies. "Despite their contribution to global food security, women farmers are frequently underestimated and overlooked in development strategies," Omura said.

"Women have strong motivation for learning and are open to engage in new activities, such as marketing and exporting products, which can create a better livelihood for themselves and for their families," Omura continued. "These traits need to be developed and supported in order to help them feed their families and communities."

Omura emphasized that eliminating barriers that prevent women from getting access to fundamental assets and creating sustaining employment opportunities is crucial for economic growth and poverty reduction.

IFAD prioritizes women's economic empowerment by providing support to women in enterprise development, income generation activities and access to microfinance, education and training.

IFAD's experience shows that the productivity of women farmers is constrained by the same factors that affect small agricultural producers in general, compounded by gender-specific factors. The International Labour Organization has estimated that rural women in Africa produce 80 per cent of the food and do most of the work in storing, processing, transporting and marketing food. And the International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that women can increase the yields of some crops by 22 per cent if given the same levels of education and experience as men.

In October 2009 Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD, received the Global MDG3 Champion Torch from the Danish government in recognition of the Fund's commitment to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.

In Copenhagen, Omura will participate in a panel session "Promotion of a favourable economic and legal framework".

Note for editors

The Global MDG3 Champion Torch campaign was launched on 7 March 2008, in Copenhagen. To date, more than 140 representatives of government, the private sector, civil society, media and international organizations have taken up the Torch. Danish embassies and missions, together with the torch bearers in a number of countries, created increased attention on the need ‘to do something extra' for the empowerment of women in order to achieve MDG3.

The demand for time-and energy-saving technologies can in itself form the basis of income-generating activities for women. For example, in Mali, with support from an IFAD regional project that is conditional on being managed by women's associations, women are operating diesel generators as businesses and selling energy services.

An IFAD funded programme, in collaboration with the National Empowerment Foundation on the island of Rodrigues (Mauritius), introduced women to the concepts of business management and taught them the techniques of agro-processing and compliance with hygiene and sanitation standards. As a result of the training, most of the women who engage in agro-processing have created personalized labels for marketing their products. Women's associations in Rodrigues now produce and package a wide range of pickles, preserves and honey and have expanded marketing of their products from Rodrigues to Mauritius.

Press release No.: IFAD/24/2010

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested over US$11 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries, empowering some 350 million people to break out of poverty. IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome – the UN's food and agricultural hub. It is a unique partnership of 165 members from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).