Women’s participation in agricultural systems can influence the choice of crops that are grown, the different uses and practices given to plants, and the way that food is prepared and distributed among the members of the household. As the knowledge keepers of local foodways, women’s roles are instrumental in transferring knowledge related to agricultural productivity, family food security, and overall wellbeing from one generation to the next. But women are faced with underlying power relations and social structures that have simultaneous effects on the opportunities and resources available to them, negatively influencing the way they participate in agriculture. In looking for ways to empower girls and women in agriculture, we need to consider – among others – the ability of women to move freely, to have autonomy, to have access to markets, to negotiate deals, to have political representation, and ultimately to secure employment.
Previous 4W work has highlighted the limitations of programs that reduce empowerment and/or focus solely on market-based approaches. This work has also shed light on programs that have the potential to reconsider and reflect on existing gender norms. Women’s empowerment programs that go beyond the economic dimension, and those that incorporate girls’ empowerment in the educational system, can redefine the roles that women play in agriculture.
Activities and Impacts
Work in Guatemala has shown that the adoption of agroecological practices by small-holder farmers seems to permeate various aspects of rural life, notably gender dynamics and community organization. Agroecology-adopting farming families seem to be moving towards more gender-equitable scenarios, such as: shifting distribution of schooling opportunities between boys and girls; focusing on capacity-building opportunities for women; and creating new agricultural spaces in which women have decision-making power. Agroecological farmers recognize the value of their evolving traditional knowledge and are eager to embrace an agricultural production system that is not reduced to profit maximization. In turn, their production rationale is built upon concern for the common good and managing the ecological devastation caused by a sustainable fashion. Our strategy is to expand upon the multidisciplinary framework of 4W’s historic “Women and One Health Initiative” to include more gender-sensitive approaches in agricultural systems, as means of eradicating poverty, increasing food security, ensuring healthy lives, and promoting wellbeing (Sustainable Development Goals 1,2,&3).
More recently, we have begun to consider the role of Indigenous knowledge systems, practices, and philosophies on food systems and wellbeing. In collaboration with 4W Leader and Indigenous scholar Mariaelena and 4W Director Lori DiPrete Brown, we have heralded the initiative Food, Indigeneity, and Gender (FIG). FIG aims to extend and strengthen our local to global networks to develop partnerships focusing on transgenerational knowledge and practices to achieve holistic wellbeing.