SRI & Women

“Women are thus central not just to sustaining global food security and nutrition, but also for the environmental management of a large portion of the world’s cultivable land.” [1] Vent, Sabarmatee and Uphoff

Rural women working in agriculture in the Global South face numerous challenges. Many of those challenges are shared by the whole community: food securityclimate change, a loss of biodiversity and tribal rights are issues that face men, women and children alike.

However, because of cultural and traditional norms, women are disadvantaged in numerous other ways. Many women have less access to credit and training than their male counterparts. This is even the case in places where the feminisation of agriculture means that men are absent from agricultural production altogether.  In many countries and cultures, women are much less likely to own land or have equal rights to land or assets and often, single women are particularly disadvantaged both at a community and a political level. In some areas, the pressures of climate change and food insecurity have even led to a higher incidence of trafficking of young girls. According to Oxfam:

“Women farmers are more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men because they are often more dependent on climate-sensitive livelihoods such as rainfed agriculture and collecting water for household use. They also have unequal access to productive resources such as land and agricultural inputs, and have less of a support system to fall back on in times of crisis.” (1)

With its higher yields, reduced inputs, production costs and labour for women there is a strong a case for suggesting that SRI can address some of these factors. Once women start producing rice on a significant scale on the same plots of land, one observed consequence is that they start to enjoy a greater status in their families and within their communities.

A significantly neglected issue for women, however, is health. Because of the tasks they perform in rice growing, women suffer serious health problems that SRI can help to either reduce or eradicate altogether. With SRI, rice fields are no longer kept constantly flooded, reducing or eliminating women’s prolonged exposure to water-borne disease vectors, carried for example through mosquitoes, snails, and leeches. And with SRI, women spend much less time in stressful postures carrying out repetitive movements for longer periods of time and as a way of life. Studies have also shown that mechanical weeding tends to lead to an increased participation of men, as in some cultures, men are expected to do any agricultural operations involving mechanical or motorised implements.

(1) Feeding Climate Change: What the Paris Agreement means for food and beverge companies, Oxfam Briefing Paper, June 2016
Background to SRI & Women:
SRI & Women | Why SRI4Women | Health | Feminisation of Agriculture | Empowerment | Trafficking

More Information:
How to integrate gender issues in climate-smart agriculture projects (FAO/World Bank)
The Story of Women Farmers in India Is That of Double Jeopardy – Being a Woman and a Farmer
SRI-Rice Center has a list of articles relating to a number of SRI-related issues
A field of her own