By Martha Schlicher
International Women’s Day was established to promote progress and equality for women in all walks of life and all fields. Agriculture is one area where the contributions of women are widespread, critically important and rapidly growing. Yet, these contributions also are not as well-known or appreciated as they should be.
More than half of the world’s food is produced by women, and an estimated 1.6 billion women depend on agriculture for their families’ livelihoods. This includes an estimated 1 million female farmers in the U.S., and millions more globally – many of whom are smallholder farmers.
But even with their dramatic contributions to our food supply and our economies, female farmers still face challenges. USDA officials indicate that only 5 percent of female farmers in the U.S. hold farms with sales of more than $100,000 per year, and that more female farmers than male farmers depend on non-farm income as well. Worldwide, the Worldwatch Institute estimates that female farmers own about 2 percent of land.
At Monsanto, we’re working on several fronts to support female farmers. We are driving important agricultural innovations every day. Innovations that help farmers grow nutritious food. Innovations that enable billions of moms around the world to purchase healthy, affordable food for their families.
We’re helping to expand the advantages of modern agriculture in developing countries, partnering with others to support programs like Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), which is delivering drought-tolerant seed to the predominantly female farmers of Sub-Saharan Africa. We support a wide range of educational programs via the Monsanto Fund. And we help the next generation of female agricultural scientists through Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program.
We depend on the leadership of our female employees every day in our efforts to help farmers grow more food in a safe and sustainable manner. From breeding and biotechnology research and development to new advances in information technology and agronomics practices, women throughout Monsanto are driving important agricultural innovations.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is: “Equality for women is progress for all,” and it stresses the vital role of women as agents of development. In our industry we are inspired through the actions of women globally, and there’s not a better day than today to reflect on all the positive accomplishments that have been made.
Today, let’s all recognize and thank women for their hard work on farms, ranches, rural communities, labs and offices, where they are using their unique talents to make all of those environments better across the globe. From the entire Monsanto team, Happy International Women’s Day.