During the month of March, or Women's History Month, we will be featuring guest stories of women who are making history in their own way.
In 1985 when my parents migrated from Hong Kong to Sydney (Australia), they not only moved their whole life to a different country, but they also made a significant career change. A cleaner and a seamstress both set out to become farmers for the first time in their lives.
Neither of them had any experience with working in agriculture, but due to having relatives working within the market gardening business, it was an easy foot in the door for them to start work as soon as they arrived on Australian soil.
Having lived and grown up on a farm, I can certainly say that farming isn’t easy business. Unpredictable climate and weather changes were just part of the challenges my parents experienced on their farm.
Although the circumstances and challenges that you face as a farmer are often unpredictable as well as both physically and emotionally tiring, it does have potential to help an individual build strong entrepreneurship skills.
The first ever business transaction I made was from growing pumpkins with some seeds my grandmother gave me. I still remember visiting my little garden to water my pumpkin patch after school every afternoon. I can’t remember how long it took me, but I do remember the joy it gave, the day my Dad returned home from the markets and handed me my first self-made $5. This was possibly the beginning of my entrepreneurship journey.
Unfortunately for many small-scale farmers in developing countries living within the base of pyramid economies, the ability for them to earn their first self-made $5 and kick off their entrepreneurship journey is a lot more challenging and for women farmers, even harder.
In addition to the climate and weather changes, women farmers are also faced with a multitude of other challenges that prevent them from reaching their full potential as farmers. Of the challenges, one of the greatest problems for women farmers is the lack of equal access to the same rights and support that male farmers receive.
Although farming has always been a key occupation for women in developing countries, in many societies, laws and traditions prevent women from owning and inheriting land to farm on. They are often excluded from receiving access to credit, seeds, fertilisers, and training. These limitations ultimately limit their ability to earn and reach their full potential.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
- Gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty. It is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls; 20 percent are children under 5 years old.
- Women, on average, comprise 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries and account for an estimated two-thirds of the world's 600 million poor livestock keepers.
- Almost 70 percent of employed women in South Asia work in agriculture, as do more than 60 percent of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, which could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or 100 to 150 million people.
But, the benefits of empowering women farmers do not just sit at poverty reduction or reducing the number of hungry people in the world. The benefits extend to the generations after them. Economically empowered women statistically have proven to raise healthier and better educated children.
These statistics often make me wonder… what if my parents were living in a developing country and never had access to land to farm on, training on how to farm, and no seeds to sow? I wonder where I would be now. What would I be doing?