Feed the Future’s Role in Strengthening Women’s Empowerment

September 29, 2016

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, supports the development of agriculture as an engine of economic growth, food security, and poverty reduction. Empowering women - who play a vital role in advancing agricultural development, food security, and nutritional outcomes - is key to Feed the Future’s success, and the initiative is committed to working with host countries to improve the ability of women farmers and entrepreneurs to reach their full agricultural potential.

Feed the Future focuses on seven dimensions of women’s empowerment in agriculture that are linked with agricultural productivity: role in making agricultural decisions; access to and control over productive resources (like land, credit, and extension services); control over income; social leadership; workload; human capital; and access to technology. 

In Feed the Future’s first year (2011), more than 500,000 women were applying improved technologies or practices, like drip irrigation or planting in rows, in their agricultural work. By 2014, this number increased almost five-fold, to nearly 2.5 million women. Feed the Future also emphasizes activities that can increase women’s access to finance. We do this through a variety of approaches, such as small direct grants of equipment, local village savings and loans primarily for women, training in financial literacy and business planning, and working with the financial sector to develop services that meet women farmers’ needs. During 2012-2014, Feed the Future programs extended over $260 million in loans to more than 640,000 women farmers and women-owned small enterprises. This access to credit means that more women can pursue economic opportunities—such as starting a small business—increasing their incomes and improving their livelihoods in the process. 

Feed the Future also invests in measuring progress in women’s empowerment in agriculture through sex-disaggregated data and the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), a first-of-its-kind tool that measures women’s empowerment and inclusion levels in the agriculture sector. Since Feed the Future’s launch, we have seen increases in the numbers of women and men trained in good agricultural practices and are seeing both more women and men applying new agricultural technologies and practices. We’ve seen that when programs engage women as farmers and entrepreneurs, participants apply new agricultural practices and technologies that work for them and their families. They earn higher incomes and are better positioned to tap into local markets. 

A new report - Cultivating Women’s Empowerment: Stories from Feed the Future 2011-2015 - demonstrates what progress looks like for some of the millions of women (and men!) who are driving progress in their homes and communities. This collection of case studies highlights how, with Feed the Future’s support, women are accessing and using resources and technology to become better farmers, take on greater and more visible leadership roles, and grow as entrepreneurs in agriculture. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future is strengthening women’s empowerment so women and their families can lead healthier, more productive lives. 

Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. To learn more about Feed the Future, visit feedthefuture.gov