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Three women selling cat's meat on the streets of Camberwell, London. 

Two unemployed are served a meal at an Indian restaurant in Regent Street, London. 

Rocketing in a hard place (pdf)
stolen food 
WFP high energy biscuits being loaded on to a truck for delivery across the Pakistan border into Afghanistan. Peshawar, NW Pakistan - 2001 © WFP/Mike Huggins A supply of oil, 2001 © WFP/Mike Huggins A rich local man steals the maize for which a child has queued for hours Winter 1998|Tom Stoddart (IPG)
Humbert de Mollard 
Stringing Beans, 1851 -
Humbert de Mollard

Borough Market, London
Holding on to the Aid Line

WholeEarthFriends.com

African Food

Women Farmers are Invisible Actors in Hunger Drama

Women shoulder more and more of the burden of providing food in many parts of the world as they plant, plough, harvest and fish, gather fuel-wood, fetch water, cook, breastfeed, and sell foodstuff.

But although they are the main actors in feeding the world and fighting hunger and malnutrition, most of their work is unpaid or grossly underpaid and they have little or no access to land, credit, training and technology.

On a global scale, women cultivate more than half of all the food that is grown. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, they produce up to 80 percent of basic foodstuffs. In Asia, they account for around 50 percent of food production. In Latin America, they are mainly engaged in subsistence farming, horticulture, poultry and raising small livestock.

In countries in transition, the proportion of rural women working in agriculture ranges from about a third in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to more than half in Poland.

In some parts of the world the role of women in agriculture has become increasingly dominant as men are forced to leave their homes in search of jobs and income in towns and cities. This new trend, called the 'feminisation of agriculture', is most accentuated in sub-Saharan Africa where the male population in rural areas is falling rapidly and women are now forming the majority of smallholder farmers. 

While the dominance of women in rural areas is evident, policy- makers, planners and extension officials often behave as if women did not exist, as if the situation and needs of all farmers were the same, whether they are men or women.

Studies have shown that when women farmers have access to resources such as land, credit, technology training and marketing, they are more productive than men farmers. But the world's primary food producers have generally less access to resources than men. 

Without secure land rights, women are often denied access to credit or the benefits of membership in co-operatives and farmers associations. Land ownership titles, however, are mostly given to the male head of household. For example, less than 10 percent of women farmers in India, Nepal and Thailand own land. Similarly, in Latin America agrarian reform programmes tend to give land titles to men.

Without secure land rights, women farmers find it difficult to obtain financial support from banks. Land is usually required as collateral for loans and credit schemes, and loans are often channelled through rural organizations to their members. Membership is often limited to the head of household. 

Without credit, women farmers cannot buy inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, and better technology, or hire workers. An analysis of credit schemes in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe found that women received less than 10 percent of the credit awarded to smallholders and one percent of the total amount of the credit directed to agriculture. In Jamaica, women account for only five percent of loans granted by the Agricultural Credit Bank.

Ironically, numerous studies have suggested that women may be more reliable than men in repaying their debts.

by Erwin Northoff