Women play a large role in global agriculture and often don’t receive the full benefits of their work. For International Day of Rural Women, we feature three Fairtrade farmers and their important work.
Rural women are on the frontlines of ensuring food security. According to the UN (PDF), women farmers make up 43 percent of the agricultural workforce in developing countries. Considering that 76 percent of people living in extreme poverty are in rural areas, helping rural women improve their position could dramatically reduce poverty and improve food security.
For all their importance, women farmers often lack access to inputs, finance, technology and technical support, and fewer than 20 percent of women farmers are landholders. Earlier this year, Fairtrade launched a Gender Strategy (PDF) aimed at helping women expand opportunities, access and benefits.
Today in honor of rural women around the world, we highlight three Fairtrade farmers and their work to improve food security, push for greater rights, and nurture their communities.
Mary Opoku of Mfama Cooperative in Ghana
“I believe that now men have realized that they need to move together with the women in order to achieve development. Men are beginning to realize their mistakes so they are now correcting it, that’s why they are giving women the chance to also be part of decision-making.”
Mary Opoku is a cocoa farmer and President of Mfama Cooperative, part of the Asunafo North Cooperative in Ghana. Mary and joined her husband on his cocoa farm in 1996. Originally they didn’t have their own land but came to an agreement with a land owner that they would work their land and when the cocoa matures they would divide the land into two and take half. Now she has seven acres. She also farms palm oil.
Mary is the President of her cooperative, which means she mobilizes people to attend meetings to discuss issues they face and come to decisions. She feels that Fairtrade has educated men about how women should be able to own property and part of the cocoa. She feels there has been a change that now women have their own farms and they can earn an income to take care of their children.
Alba Zaxuho of Manduvira Cooperative in Paraguay
"The work with the cooperative has improved my quality of life. The cooperative offers me many benefits. I can borrow equipment for planting and harvesting or to analyze our harvest and soil in the laboratory. We don't use chemicals, only organic plant protection."
Alba is 37 years old and has been a cooperative member for eight years. Manduvira, located in the South-West of Paraguay, has been Fairtrade certified since 1999. The cooperative has grown from 200 members to 1700 as of 2015. In 2014 Manduvira celebrated the opening of one of the world’s first producer-owned sugar mills producing Fairtrade organic sugar and delivering even more benefits back to their farmer members.
Hidayah of Koperasi Baithul Qiradh Baburrayyan in Indonesia
“I dream of a prosperous life that is not too hard for me and my family, therefore I need support to make my work in my own coffee garden easier. I need agriculture tools, such as a grass trimmer, sprayer, and organic fertilizer. With these supports I believe I will earn enough for my family.”
Hidayah is 27 years old and has one child. She is a temporary worker, but also has her own 1.2 acre coffee farm in a nearby village. She prefers to focus more on farming as working her own land pays better. Hidayah is a member of Koperasi Baithul Qiradh Baburrayyan (KBQB), a Fairtrade certified cooperative since 2007 and one of the leading coffee cooperatives in the country. The group sells nearly 100 percent of their production on Fairtrade terms and counts with 5,671 farmer members.