Dr Yelitza Colmenarez, CABI’s Director Brazil Centre and Regional Coordinator for the Plantwise Programme – Latin America and the Caribbean, has taken part in the recent 5th National Congress of Women in Agribusiness (Brazil) to help highlight the importance of women in agriculture and how the gender component is a key focus in CABI’s programmes – particularly in South America.
Dr Colmenarez was joined by delegates, including Ministers of Agriculture from Brazil and Portugal, at the online event which also included the Consul of Israel in Brazil to focus on agricultural technology and collaboration with Brazil. Here we present Dr Colmenarez’s speech to the congress in full.
“Good morning! It’s a big pleasure for me to have the opportunity to participate in this session and in this important event, which is promoting the importance of women in the agricultural sector.
“CAB International (CABI) is an international organization with a very strong scientific-base, and is a development and information organisation. We coordinate our activities with our 50-member countries globally, linking with public and private institutions. As part of our activities, CABI implements international development projects and research on agricultural and environmental problems of global concern.
“It also leads the global Plantwise programme which aims to provide farmers with better access to the agricultural advice and technical information needed to produce healthy crops. CABI recognizes and promotes at all levels, the significant contribution of women in agriculture, food security and nutrition.
“Through the years, women have been venturing and working in new areas, where years ago our participation was limited by different factors. I clearly remember the moment when I informed my family and friends, that I had decided to take Agriculture as a career. Many people told me, at that time, that agriculture wasn’t for a woman, and now we all can say different!
“As a woman, we have to work harder to conquer our space in agriculture, not only at the field level, but also in the agribusiness and management areas. New doors are getting open for women, and we believe that if you invest in a woman to growth, you will get the return of the growing of the whole society, as the women influence and contributions go far beyond from the field, as can reach the family and society as a whole.
“As highlighted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (FAO), and considered in the CABI Gender Strategy, empowering and investing in rural women has resulted in significant improvements in productivity and rural livelihoods.
In our programmes, one of the major focus is to approximate female farmers to advisory services and agricultural technology, in order to produce better crops, adjusting the technologies to the local conditions, trying to understand better the women requirements and needs.
“As part of the technology transfer to female farmers, and this also includes the technology of application of chemicals and biological products, we are also exploring those technologies and equipment that also consider a better adjustment to women-small farmers requirements.
“There are champions companies investing in research to make possible to develop better adapted technology to women, which we welcome and promote. Studies of agricultural productivity consistently find that women tend to have an average of 20-30% lower productivity than men; this difference is attributed to differences in input levels.
“FAO argue that closing the gender gap in access to productive resources could increase agricultural output in the developing world by 2.5-4% and reduce the number of undernourished people by 12-17%, with higher gains corresponding to countries where the gender gap is wider and where women are heavily involved in agriculture.
“Such a reduction in gender inequality in agriculture would also have important benefits for poverty reduction and achieving gender equality. Gender disparities in access to markets and market information contribute to women receiving less income from marketed crop surplus than men. In our activities, where a project aims to disseminate information or training, the gender of the target audience is considered and evaluated in detail as different people understand messages in different ways.
“For instance, women and men can see the same poster and their interpretation of it, could be very different, based on their own motivational factors. These different interpretations may influence uptake of the advice being disseminated, especially if some groups see the advice having a positive or negative impact on them.
“In our programmes, we integrate women at different levels: researchers, extensionists, consultants, creating a strategy that enables us to reach more female farmers, understanding well the possible blocking factors for women to have a higher participation in the agricultural sector as a whole, and discussing and implementing at all levels, different actions and potential solutions to that.
“It’s important to implement agricultural programmes, considering to join efforts and bringing key institutions that are part of the agricultural sector at the national level, public and private sector, to work together in order to reinforce food security and safety in our region and strategically organize activities, focusing in gender equality. At the national and regional platforms established, we could discuss the current situation and local scenarios and the way forward to increase women participation and presence at all levels in the agricultural sector.
“In the context of “One Health”, which is so important in the current scenario and global challenges we are facing today, we believe women play an important role and it can cause a higher impact if key strategic activities are done in a more inclusive way, achieving gender equality and equity.
“We hope that in the future we can overcome the current barriers, to keep increasing the role and reinforcing the presence of women in various areas and that we have a more inclusive, equitable world, where women continue to have a voice and that their contributions are recognized, respected and valued. So let’s join efforts and work together to keep empowering women in agriculture globally!”