Women in Agriculture Farm for a Better Life
by Connie Kang
Whether it’s from a rice field in a little village on the Philippine island of Bohol or from an office building in the hectic city of Bangkok in Thailand, women working in agriculture help pave the way for a better life – both for their own families and a growing world population.
Global Smallholder Farming Manager, Bayer SouthEastAsia
Although it is a common stereotype that smallholders are men, women make up about 43 percent of the labor force in developing countries and are more and more entering the field in their own right. I am a strong believer in the concept of a family business – out of my own experience.
I was born in a Korean community in the northeastern part of China. My family was quite poor when I was young. I remember my mother looking for some spare coins to buy me ice cream – there was hardly enough money for such little treats.
But I also remember how my mom worked hard and strong to improve our family’s livelihood. A better education was her biggest dream for me. Today, when I speak to female smallholders about their dreams for their families, it feels like a deja vu from my childhood.
For me improving the livelihood of a smallholder family has never been about one person alone. I am convinced that only when everyone is equally involved, irrespective of their gender, that the family farming business can really grow. And I speak out of experience when I say, this change of perception is happening at this very moment.
As Bayer’s Global Smallholder Farming Manager for South East Asia, I have the opportunity to join the training sessions in smallholder communities across Asia. This is part of our Better Life Farming contribution to help smallholders to unlock their full farming potential. I always get really excited to see how many women attend and how actively they engage in these trainings. They are just as passionate about their two hectares of farm land as their spouses or male counterparts. And why shouldn’t they? This small but precious business provides food for the entire family and with the produce sold, kids can be sent to school, receive medical care and head for a bright future. I think Eulalia Mantica, a female smallholder I met on the Philippines describes it best: “I’m a farmer. It’s our way to earn a living. Farming is our life.” In other words, she is literally farming a better life for her family.
This is why helping them to grow their farms into successful businesses is a personal matter to me. As a woman, it is easy for me to understand the challenges facing women in a male dominated industry. At the same time, I can understand the challenges she has as an entrepreneur. We meet on a common ground, one on which we can talk on eye-level and learn from one another. And I am not alone on this task! Shiela Maratas, one of our distribution partners in the Philippines is just as passionate about helping female smallholders like Eulalia. Whenever we meet, we exchange about how to improve our services to drive Better Life Farming and make an impact on smallholder farming businesses in her community.
The best part of my job is having the ability to come up with solutions that can specifically serve smallholders’ needs. And it’s their happiness I am allowed to experience and share when the solution works out. The other day, Eulalia told me, “I feel so excited about Better Life Farming. Our earnings have increased, I can afford for the education of my children and we can buy what we need now.” – an immediate satisfaction which reminds me of my mom and why I love working with smallholder farmers, regardless of their gender.
After all, farming should not be about female or male, big or small. It’s about people improving their farming potential, their yields and their livelihood. My biggest passion is for this message to resonate across all geographic boarders, farm sizes and even industries. My stepping stone to amplify this is Better Life Farming.