Ending food insecurity will remain a dream unless we close agriculture gender gap, says Fairtrade

Trade will never be truly fair as long as women continue to be disproportionately trapped in poverty and underrepresented in global agriculture and business, the Fairtrade Foundation warned, following the release of a new Fairtrade global gender strategy on International Women’s Day 2016.

In the second week of Fairtrade Fortnight, the organisation highlights the fact that whilst women make up nearly half the agricultural workforce, and often play a vital role in value addition of crops, they remain excluded from land ownerships, are lower paid, and struggle for fair access to loans or technical skills training.

But closing this gender gap could actually address hunger, as the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation suggests; 150 million people could be lifted out of hunger by removing gender inequalities in agriculture.

Barbara Crowther, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, said:

“This year’s International Women’s Day focus on parity has never been more important at a time when the majority of women in developing countries do not own their own land, are badly paid and locked out of decision-making processes. Gender inequality is not simply unjust, it is dangerous. 

“When women are in positions of leadership the whole of our society benefits and when they are not, the economy loses out from wasted talent. In the Fairtrade system, we have recognised that the inequalities that exist in mainstream agriculture, land ownership and cultural practices will simply replicate unless there is a concerted focus on tackling them.  That’s why we’re working harder than ever now to increase women’s representation within farmer co-operatives, so that women and men equally benefit from training opportunities and programmes to improve their access to land and credit. We’re calling on companies to work with us: let’s be bold and overhaul the whole export system to be one of equality and talent.”

Fairtrade International’s 2016-20 Gender strategy ‘Transforming Equal Opportunity, Access and Benefits for All’ outlines a vision and a roadmap to secure equal and active participation across the whole of the Fairtrade movement, women’s empowerment is a key part of its campaign for trade justice.

Sheena Biju, a coffee and spices farmer from India has previously served on the board of directors at farming organisation, Manarcadu Social Service Society (MASS), is currently in the UK for Fairtrade Fortnight. She said: “Farming, which was a generally low income area with less women’s involvement has now transformed into a highly participatory atmosphere which is also financially attractive.”


Fairtrade’s work in gender has been scaled up following funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The new strategy ‘Transforming Equal Opportunity, Access and benefits for All’ seeks to address the challenge that globally women make up 43% of the agricultural workforce but own fewer assets, have less access to credit and are rarely targeted effectively by extension services that improve production.

As cooperative rules often only allow the land title-owner to register membership, Fairtrade’s recently issued 2016 Monitoring Report (p28) shows that an average of just 23% of official members of Fairtrade small producer cooperatives are women, whilst 48% of all workers on large certified farms are women. Fairtrade will continue to challenge the structural barriers to women’s membership and participation in Fairtrade co-operatives, as well as improve women’s empowerment and protection from harassment on larger farms, and tackle the unequal power relations within markets.

This strategy follows Fairtrade’s 2015 report Equal Harvest which recommends that to close this gender gap, women need finance, access to training, employment in more senior positions and membership of co-operatives and farmer associations. It also outlines how to influence and change cultural norms and practices about women, and help bring about policies for businesses and governments to redress the balance.

Achieving gender equality, and empowering women and girls is one of 17 Global Goals now adopted by the United Nations, and research shows that many of the other goals will not be met, unless women are given greater control and autonomy.

Find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight 2016, which this year focuses on the lack of food security for farmers around the world.

Interviews are available with:

Barbara Crowther, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Fairtrade Foundation and we can also provide case studies or print interviews with the manager of gender programmes in Colombia, Luz Marina (not English speaking) and director of a coffee and spices co-operative Sheena Susan Biju, from India who are currently touring the UK and sharing their stories as part of Fairtrade Fortnight.

For more information contact:

Susannah Henty, Media and PR Manager, +44 (0)20 7440 8597, Mobile: +44 (0)7766 504947  susannah.henty@fairtrade.org.uk