International Women’s Day, March 8
Grown from the labor movements in the U.S and Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, International Women’s Day was officially recognized in December 1977 by the United Nations and its member states.
Each year on March 8, local events, such as conferences, rallies, parades, and government-sponsored activities, are held throughout the world to celebrate women’s achievements and inspire men and women to promote gender equity.
Although women’s contributions to agriculture often go unrecognized, in some countries, women perform upwards of 75% of agriculture work. For agricultural development or peace keeping efforts to be sustainable, organizations are now realizing that women must be engaged as active stakeholders. On this day, the faculty and staff of the Borlaug Institute pause to reflect on decades of effort from the Texas A&M University System to empower women in the U.S and around the world:
Afghanistan: The Borlaug Institute has been working in Afghanistan since 2006 to build capacity within the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) and to rebuild livelihoods impacted by decades of conflict. With the Howard G. Buffet Foundation and U.S. Department of Defense Task Force for Business and Stability Operations as partners, in 2011the Borlaug Institute established three Women’s Food Processing Centers in Herat Province. The goals of this initiative were to: 1) increase women’s incomes and reduce hunger at rural village level; 2) increase income of smallholder farmers by creating markets for local fruits and vegetables; 3) increase children’s health through improved nutrition; 4) improve working conditions and food sanitation standards; and 5) improve security and reduce rural to urban migration. With the new food processing centers, the women members’ increased their family income by 56% within the first year of operation.
USAID Tropical Plant Curriculum Project: As part of USAID’s Tropical Plant Curriculum Project (TPC), the Norman E. Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture led a collaborative effort with three Indonesian universities to improve utilization and quality of tropical plant products fostering economic development in home industries. The TPC project placed significant emphasis on supporting women’s cooperatives and community groups and noted amazing achievements. The Tunas Women’s Bamboo Cooperative in Bali Indonesia formed two years ago with support from TPC team members from Udayana University. The cooperative now has 23 members and has been recognized by the Ministry of Cooperatives as one of the top three cooperatives in Bali. With improved processing and packaging, the cooperative has increased the value of its products by 75 percent and broadened its market to supermarket chains and hotels. Cooperative members have become recognized as leaders in their community.
The Rwanda Pyrethrum Program: In Rwanda, the Borlaug Institute has worked alongside SC Johnson to help women form cooperatives and sub-groups in which several have learned to pool earnings to buy their own land. Since 2014, one group was able to raise enough funds to lease its own plot for the growing season – a first for all of the women involved. Efforts by the pyrethrum program have helped women to be generally more business savvy in work that extends beyond just pyrethrum.
Just about every program of the Borlaug Institute includes a gender component. We look forward to new ventures in agricultural development that allow us to continue and expand our work in empowering the women of agriculture.