Women feed the world - not only when they're standing at the stove cooking, but also, and more especially, by working in the fields. In Africa, women produce approximately 80 per cent of the basic food. In Southeast Asia, women do 90 per cent of the work involved in rice production. On average, worldwide, women do at least half of all agricultural work. Mothers, daughters, sisters and grandmothers are responsible for growing the food, carrying the harvest to the local market, and processing food to add value to it or preserve it. Then they gather firewood and fetch water for the household and the vegetable garden.
But their work is barely recognised. Agricultural advisers usually only talk to males. Most women have little access to education and information, and women receive no more than 10 per cent of agricultural loans. Discrimination against women is most obvious when it comes to distribution of land. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, only two per cent of land is owned by women.
In many countries, women are responsible for the selection and storage of seed, which means that the success of future harvests is in their hands. Their special knowledge about how to handle seed has been passed on to them by their mothers and grandmothers. This knowledge should be respected, maintained and expanded upon. And the particular responsibility women have should be respected.
By encouraging women's groups to assert their right to own land and obtain further training, and granting them small loans for agricultural projects, SWISSAID aims to improve the situation for farming women. We also support seed banks. However, we do not want this to create even more work for women. It is time for men to take more responsibility for looking after their families.