Report finds recognising & investing in women farmers is good for business & development

Many businesses are unaware of the crucial role women play in supplying the ingredients they depend on for their products, as this contribution is often unrecognised, unpaid and invisible, says a new report Empowering Women Farmers in Agricultural Value Chains launched by the ethical trade organisation Twin and the Fairtrade Foundation.

Around 70% of the work in agriculture is done by women, according to FAO figures. The report analyses the results of interviews with 14 producer groups in Ghana, India, Malawi, Nicaragua, Peru and Rwanda. The findings show that despite women being active at all stages of agricultural production, in many cases providing the majority of the labour, women continue to face a glass ceiling when it comes to transporting crops to market and completing the sale. These tasks are almost universally done by men, who subsequently retain much of the control over household income.

The report shows that in addition to providing the lion’s share of labour, women tend to undertake crucial tasks essential for quality. It reveals that not only are women on the whole as engaged as men in planting and harvesting, they also tend to take the lead in processing – where much of the value is added and product quality can be determined.

Key recommendations in the report are:

  • Develop corporate gender policies that recognise the role of women farmers and workers to progressively improve gender justice within their value chains
  • Encourage suppliers to commit to equal representation for women in membership and leadership within producer organisations
  • Ensure investments in agricultural training and resources are inclusive of women, such as extension services, agricultural inputs and technologies
  • Share business expertise and invest in income-generating initiatives targeted at women, such as the creation of micro-enterprises run by women
  • Develop differentiated products that promote women’s empowerment, connect women producers and consumers and give women producers market insights.

The findings also reveal that investing in programmes targeted at women smallholders – among the most marginalised actors in the value chain – could have a greater impact on education, health and food security.

In the commodities looked at, women are largely responsible for shelling and grading nuts, fermenting and drying coffee and fermenting cocoa. These are crucial parts of the production process that influence quality, taste and even food safety. Women carry out this critical work on top of household labour, which is seen as ‘women’s work’.

Women also face additional barriers to men regarding land ownership, which affects access to credit and can disqualify them from joining producer organisations. As a result, women are underrepresented in the membership of such organisations and at all levels of their governance. This perfect storm of restricted labour, income and ownership rights can leave women with little control over decision-making in the home and within producer organisations.

Nicolas Mounard, Managing Director of Twin, says: ’We see on the ground that investing in women and giving them leadership opportunities results in smarter, better use of money – both in producer organisations and in the home. The invaluable role women farmers play in ensuring consistent, quality products may be unseen by business, but should not be forgotten.’

Michael Gidney, the Chief Executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: ‘The report shows what we have known for far too long to be true, that women play a crucial but unrecognised role in global food production. That’s why Fairtrade is working with businesses to invest in gender focused policies, training and income generating initiatives targeted at women to provide greater impact on women farmers’ lives.’

More info
Download the report at

Twin is an ethical trading organisation working with over 50 producer organisations representing 400,000 coffee, cocoa and nut producers in 18 countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia.

More about Twin at

Find out about the Fairtrade Foundation at

Share this