Women in Farming, Strong Agriculture
Throughout the world, female empowerment has opened spaces for women to perform in different sectors and levels in our society, this reality is no different in Latin America and is making a big difference in agriculture.
In agriculture, women already account for 48 percent of the work force, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. As farmers, farmworkers, saleswomen, businesswomen, and community leaders, they play important roles in the entire agribusiness value chain, producing food, bringing innovation to processes, and delivering responsible natural resource management.
Women are making the difference all over the world and acting as key agents of change in agriculture, nutrition and rural development, we´ve selected some real stories in the Latin America region. They´re testimonials from brave farmers, who are contributing to enhance the agribusiness sector in the region, considered extremely important to the world food production. Women in agriculture are helping to pave the way for a better future. As leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation are educated, encouraged and empowered to take on the challenges of meeting the world's growing food, fuel and fiber needs.
Head of Communication Crop Science Latin America
However, this reality was not always so. Born in Colombia to a peasant family, Diana Posada faced several barriers early in her professional career. Today she holds a degree in veterinary medicine, fulfilling her childhood passion for animals, yet she had to deal with criticism regarding her choice of career in her own family and after graduating as she faced challenges to enter the job market. “In the beginning, it was hard to deal with the farmers’ mistrust, I felt they doubted my technical knowledge. But as I demonstrated to them my understanding of the issues and skills, the doors started opening for me,” she says. Today, Diana works at Animal Health in Bayer. “I visit farms to monitor milk quality analysis results and to measure these data. In addition, I also train field operators. My daily works takes place on-farms, alongside the customers, to help them raise their production levels,” she explains.
She acknowledges women are already occupying several spaces within the agricultural chain. “A lot has changed in the last ten years. Just to give you an idea, I work in a team of the 20 veterinarians, eight of which are women. We have definitively shown that there is no difference between men and women when it comes to intelligence and drive, yet there is still work to be done to achieve before we can say women are considered men equals in the agribusiness. It is our role to push forward occupying places and highlighting our ability to perform activities at all levels within the industry,” she says.
Sarita Junqueira Rodas, Brazilian, story is different from Diana’s. Growing up she had never expected that she would have to take over her family’s property and citrus business. Sarita studied Law, pursuing her childhood dream to be a prosecutor. However, in 2008, her father died and her sister, who was going to take over the farm business, passed away shortly after. Sarita had drop her plans and take the helm of the property and, since 2014, has served as the CEO of the Junqueira Rodas outfit. "I started attending internal and external courses to get a better understanding of citrus farming and learn about the agribusiness. I had to dive quickly into the ag world and carry on with the family business,” she says.
Women in Farming, Strong Agriculture
Some of the challenges she had to face where professional, others in her own home. At the age of 25, she already had three children and had to manage her personal and professional life at same time. “Despite the difficulties, I moved on, got trained, and developed the skills to run the business. I have now been in agriculture for nine years. I run a company with 500 direct employees and seasonal 1,500 workers. Together we are reaping very positive results, our production area has grown 20 percent, and we have incorporated technologies and new systems into our processes,” she celebrates.
Her leadership role in managing a major agricultural company ensured Sarita a seat in the Citriculture Defense Fund, Fundecitrus. She is the first woman to achieve this position in the private, non-profit association that aims to benefit and develop citrus farming in Brazil.
The success stories repeat across the region. Marjorie Medoza, in Ecuador, manages alone a family property of 630 hectares located in Quevedo, in the province of Los Ríos, in the central coastal region of the country. She inherited the farm from her father. She has been in contact with agriculture since childhood and working on the land is her true passion. “I love what I do, especially the banana crop, which is very dynamic. It is great to know that I am producing food that will reach many parts of the world. It is a great responsibility, so I seek ways to innovate and care for the land and the crop: to keep the soil fertile, to control pests and to ensure product quality,” she says.
There are currently about 380 people working on her property, which produces 61 boxes of bananas per week. “It is not easy to be a woman and work in farming; it is a rather complex world, but I think I'm doing well. Everything happens very fast in banana farming. It takes 12 weeks from planting to selling. So you have to be firm and make agile decisions. While I have to run the business with confidence and take some time tough decisions as a leader I have a responsibility to my employees and their needs”, she explains.
For Marjorie, the best recipe to overcome the challenges she faces as a woman in agriculture is to put love into what she does. “When we do what we love, we are creative and dedicated. With perseverance, we are able to overcome the barriers of prejudice, show our competence.” When she thinks of her country and agriculture. “Here in Ecuador, we have the advantage of the favorable climate, and we can produce any kind of food. My role is to contribute to sustainable agriculture in banana farming by incorporating good agricultural practices on my property. I plan to soon boost production to 3600 boxes per year, which will reach many different corners of the world. This brings me a lot of satisfaction as a woman and as a professional,” she points out and her eyes twinkle.
Whether applying technical knowledge in the field, leading the operation of an agricultural enterprise or working on cropping food that is so important for our daily lives, women’s presence in agriculture is increasing and making a huge difference. To enhance awareness of women’s role and contributions, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization is promoting the #MulheresRurais (#RuralWomen) campaign throughout Latin America and the Caribbean aiming to increase the autonomy of women in rural areas by promoting experiences and knowledge on women's empowerment.
AG Women Awards:
Valuing women's empowerment in farming
Committed to gender equality and aiming to give voice to the struggle of women in agriculture, Bayer Brazil is promoting the 1st AG Women Awards in partnership with the Brazilian Agribusiness Association (ABAG). The initiative, pioneering in the country, is aligned with the global UN Women campaign, which has “This is the time: Rural and urban activists transform women’s lives” as its motto.
The winners will be selected by a technical jury based on their innovative management considering the pillars of sustainability - economic, social and environmental. The awards ceremony is scheduled for October 24, during the 3rd National Congress of Agribusiness Women, at Transamérica Expo Center, in São Paulo.