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Three misconceptions about women in agribusiness that hold companies back

Nathalie Hoffmann's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español

Debunking common misconceptions about women in agribusiness can unlock business opportunities for the private sector

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, global leaders from across the world came together to deliberate on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as agriculture and food security and greater social inclusion. With the global population projected to rise more than 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food expected to jump sharply, the need for addressing the challenges of food security assumes greater urgency than before. There is also a growing need to adopt stronger measures to reduce the gender gap—women shouldn’t have to wait 170 years to bridge the divide.

Ahead of the Davos meeting, IFC released a report on agribusiness, Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains, highlighting how companies can increase productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector by closing economic and social gaps between women and men throughout the value chain, from farm to retail and beyond. The solution to address two of the most pressing challenges—food security and gender parity—isn’t difficult to find, as my research for the report suggests.

Women comprise over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide and play a major role in agriculture; yet they face a variety of constraints, such as limited access to agricultural inputs, technologies, finance, and networks. As the report shows, an increasing number of companies now recognize that investing in women can help increase companies’ bottom lines—while helping improve the lives of people in rural areas.

Yet, despite the clear business rationale, one wonders why more companies aren’t replicating the efforts of successful companies. The answer probably lies in the prevailing misconceptions about women in agribusiness—despite promising business case testimonials for gender-smart investments from multinational companies such as Mondelēz International and Primark.

Agribusiness companies need support in identifying where and how they can close gender gaps in their value chain. A good start would be to debunk those common misconceptions about women in the sector:

​To find solutions for rural women, ask the right questions

Victoria Stanley's picture

Today is International Women’s Day--though personally I think women deserve to be celebrated more than one day a year!

My colleagues and I who work at the Bank on enabling equity in agriculture celebrate women every day and recognize their contributions to their families, communities and countries.  We wanted to use this global celebration to update you on some of the things we’ve learned from our work to make women’s lives better.

Women have a big need for reliable and timely access to technical and market information: We believe that information and communication technologies (ICT) have the potential to completely change rural women’s lives, especially women farmers who often have less access to information compared to male farmers. Our recently completed study , which looked at practical ways to integrate ICTs into agriculture projects in Zambia and Kenya, found that rural and agricultural women have a lot to gain from access to ICTs. However we know that the use of ICTs to help women farmers depends on a number of factors, such as literacy, infrastructure and cost. Among the things we learned: ICT can enhance and expand the impact of  programs for rural women; it is essential to listen and learn through focus groups and other research approaches to understand women’s specific information needs that can be met by ICT; and women often learn better from other women. This study is the first step in a growing program to understand how we can best support women farmers with ICT.