Gender, agriculture, forestry and nutrition
Agriculture is the foundation for nutrition and health and an important means to food security. At the same time, it plays a crucial role in climate and environmental protection. As a result, our nutritional habits and the way we produce food also have an impact on our climate. Non-sustainable land use leads to significant environmental problems, such as soil erosion and acidification. At the same time, climate change directly affects agricultural production and rural areas, for example through the loss of arable land and changes in cultivation periods. The United Nations has proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Soils to underline the relevance of soils and the importance of protecting them.
Care economy / care work
Women perform many different roles on farms. Data on this has been scarce, but now a project conducted by the Thünen Institute in cooperation with the German Rural Women's Association (Deutscher LandFrauenverband) is researching the living situation of women on farms in rural regions of Germany (duration until 4/2022).
Initial results show that women rate the roles of mother and wife/partner, but also those of gardener, milker and animal keeper as well as the role of the female farmer positively, whereas the roles of cleaning lady, housewife, office worker, cab driver for the family and (elderly) caregiver, which are associated with little recognition and involve rather invisible work, are perceived as stressful. The frequent switching between the different roles is perceived as particularly difficult, which leads to the fact that tasks that have been started are not completed and that new prioritizations have to be made constantly. These initial results show that although the combination of care work and gainful employment on the farm initially appears easier due to the freer allocation of time, the mixing also leads to a dissolution of work boundaries.
Market driven / labor economy
In Germany and Europe, the majority of farm owners are officially men and are also officially managed by men (farm managers). This means that even if they are de facto family farms or the farms are managed by both spouses, women officially only have the status of a collaborating "spouse". According to Eurostat data, only 28% of farm owners in the EU are women. In Germany, the proportion of women farm managers is just under 10%, which places Germany among the lowest in the EU. Latvia and Lithuania are at the forefront with 43% women's share, Austria ranks 6th with 31% (Eurostat data from 2016, see chart).
Overall, 36% of employees in agriculture in Germany are women. (Federal Statistical Office, as of 2016). These work 42.9 % as family workers, 19.2 % as long-term employees and 37.9 % as seasonal workers. In contrast, there are only 17 percent women among trainees to become "farmers." (Federal Information Center for Agriculture)
In the forestry sector, the situation is much worse: 10% of foresters in Austria are female, with 25% of forest areas in female hands. For Germany, the figures are similar, although there are large differences between the eastern and western federal states.
Symbolic order (cross-cutting dimension)
There are also differences in attitudes toward food production: Committed women are often the driving force behind the conversion from conventional agricultural production to organic farming. The same applies to ideas of direct marketing on farms. Clear differences are also evident in the rejection of genetic engineering. Even if many of the causes of gender differences are based on stereotypical role attributions, norms and values, they must be given greater focus in policy-making because this makes a positive contribution to environmental and climate protection and promotes sustainable agricultural policy: Consumption of regional products, lower consumption of meat and dairy products, and organic farming have a more favorable climate footprint and reduce resource consumption.
Women also tend to prefer more organic as well as regional products, according to studies. There are significant gender differences when it comes to dietary styles and preferences. The dietary patterns of men and women are decisively determined by social role attributions and cultural practices and are by no means natural. Women generally eat a healthier diet, eat fresh fruits and vegetables more often, and eat a vegetarian or vegan diet significantly more often than men. In comparison, men eat more energy-dense foods and consume larger amounts of meat and also alcohol. Our eating behavior is an area in which the traditional categories of masculinity and femininity are enacted and consolidated, meaning that identities as women and men in society are shaped through food. For example, restraint or curbing of appetite is more associated with women while a fast pace of eating and indulgence are more associated with masculinity. Men also tend to consume foods that are considered "strong" (meat) and women tend to consume so-called "weak" foods (curd, fruit).
Shaping power at actor’s level
If you look at the German Farmers' Association or other agricultural associations, you will notice that few, if any, women are represented on committees. At the state level, this seems to be changing in favor of women.
In general, however, it can be seen that, in line with the low proportion of women among farm owners, their participation in (political) decision-making processes is lower. Overall, the gender imbalance in agriculture is also significant because the European Union's agricultural budget is the largest of all budgets, and power relations have a significant role in shaping policy.
Body, health, self-determination and privacy ('intimacy')
The higher health consciousness of women has already been mentioned in the gender dimension symbolic order. It is particularly evident in nutrition, but may possibly also play a role with the stronger application by women in the conversion to organic farming.
EU Project: Forests in Women's Hands (Fem4Forest)
The European project Forests in Women's Hands (Fem4Forest) aims at strengthening the visibility and participation of women in the forest sector in order to achieve positive effects for the forest sector and the development of rural areas and to increase the innovation and competitiveness of the forest sector, the regions and the countries of the Danube Region. For this purpose, 14 partners in 10 countries are working together in four work packages, which first provide the basics in the form of data on the situation of women in the forestry sector in the different countries and regions (the results are already available), analyze the framework conditions and policies, carry out training and activation measures, and develop strategies for innovation in rural areas through improved inclusion/promotion of women in forestry. The duration of the project is from July 2020 - December 31, 2022. More information and initial project results can be found here.
Brot für die Welt (2015): Equal rights – the best recipe against malnutrition. A healthy diet for everybody is a human right
The study shows the complex interlinkages of root causes and their effects on malnutrition specifically in women and girls who constitute the largest group of people affected by malnutrition. This calls for strategies, which take into account the results of thorough analysis of the root causes and effects specifically of malnutrition in women and girls from household level to the international level. The right to food of women and girls needs to be strengthened and made visible in international human rights treaties as well as national laws. Gender mainstreaming including gender disaggregated data collection and analysis is essential for effective strategic, programme and project planning. The important concepts of food security in all its dimensions and food sovereignty need to be complemented by the gender perspective. The study shows the shortcomings of present strategies and the need for essential strategic changes in the fight against malnutrition.
BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Food Security
The newly released BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Food Security makes the case for a new, gender-aware understanding of food security, arguing that partial, apolitical and gender-blind diagnoses of the problem of food and nutrition insecurity is leading to insufficient policy responses and the failure to realize the right to food for all people.
The Pack includes:
An In Brief, with an overview article and two case studies. Also available in French and Spanish.
An Overview Report, outlining the main issues, showcasing effective and promising existing strategies, and suggesting rights-based, gender-just and environmentally sustainable approaches.
- Chair for Gender and Food/Nutrition
The Chair for Gender and Food/Nutrition in the Institute for Social Sciences in Agriculture at the Universität Hohenheim was founded in 2002. It engages theoretical and practical approaches to nutrition security and sustainable food systems in the local, regional and international arena.
- Fem4Forest: Report on Current Situation and Position of Women in Forestry in Danube Region
The status report from April 2021 describes the current situation of women in forestry of the Danube region. A comprehensive picture on the status of women in the forest sectors of 10 different countries is provided based on existing research and available data. Key findings and overviews are compiled in more than 90 figures and 80 tables. The compiled report anchors the idea of equality in forestry and provides a significant basis for further steps in the Fem4Forest project, including a survey on needs and interests of women, benchmarking, definition of action plans and training programs.
- Food Insecurity in Europe: A Gender Perspective
In their study from 2020, Elena Grimaccia and Alessia Naccarato present a comparison of the principal determinants of individual food insecurity in Europe and other Continents, with particular regard to gender. The study of gender related differences in food insecurity is particularly important in Europe, since women experience food insecurity at a larger extent than men, but with a variability related to the geographical distribution and with complex relationships with economic and social drivers.
The results suggest that the driver that could most mitigate women disadvantage is education: people with a university degree present a lower probability of experiencing food insecurity, both for men and for women. On the contrary, familial characteristics, such as the number of children in the household, present a higher impact on women’s food insecurity than on men’s.
- SDG 5: Gender Equality - A Precondition for Sustainable Forestry
Taking SDG 5 seriously in relation to forests brings to the forefront what is usually taken for granted in forest debates: people, their relationships to one another and to the forests that determine forest outcomes. In this book chapter from 2019, the authors bring to light the invisible labour and relations that underpin good forest management, showing how systemic and contextual factors such as health, gender-based violence and unpaid care work by forest peoples in the forests and outside are crucial to the welfare of forests and forest dependent peoples. So far, little progress has been made in implementing SDG5 targets within forestry. Political will is needed to transform unequal relationships and to support demands for forest justice. There is a need to challenge privilege based on sex, class, ethnicity or caste and to destabilize inequitable micro- and macro-economic structures such as commodification and support democratic forest governance to work towards greater sustainability.
- Gender Action: Gender, International Financial Institutions (IFI) and Food Security
In April 2011 Gender Action launched a project on gender and food insecurity that aims at highlighting how IFI investments in agriculture, nutrition and rural development often exacerbate food insecurity in developing countries, and how women and girls disproportionately suffer harmful impacts.
Three case studies from Haiti, Kenya and Zambia show how IFI investments lead to growing food insecurity in developing countries, increase gender inequality and contribute to the growing impoverishment of women and girls.
More information on the project.
- World Agroforestry Centre 2013: Addressing Gender in Climate-Smart Smallholder Agriculture
This four-page policy brief focuses on the constraints that women face to more equitable participation in smallholder carbon and climate-smart initiatives.
- Landesa 2012: Land Rights and Food Security: the linkages Between Secure Land Rights, Women and Improved Household Security and Nutrition
This short five page brief concisely sets out the key issues linking secure land rights, women and improved household food security and nutrition.
- Kiptot, E. und Franzel, S. 2011: Gender and Agroforestry in Africa: are Women Participating? This paper presents the findings of a review undertaken on gender and the adoption of agroforestry in Africa.