Farming has always been a key occupation for women in developing countries. But most female farmers produce food crops for home consumption rather than cash crops. In recent decades, women’s presence in farming has only continued to grow with the increased importance of agro processing and export horticulture, and the creation of global agricultural supply chains linked to supermarkets. But this growing presence has not translated into their growing power in the agricultural sector. Successful commercial female farmers who have switched into profitable crops traditionally controlled by men remain the exception, and there is much to learn from them.

Summary of Lessons

Secure land rights increase investments in land fertility have empowerment effects for women within families, and reduce the vulnerability of women and households to economic shocks. Granting women land rights is strongly associated with increases in the productivity of women farmers and their economic security and autonomy. Educating women and households about their land rights may yield high returns since legal knowledge associated with land rights determines farmers’ land-related investments, and research shows that only a minority of land users have knowledge about these rights.

Successful large-scale land registration programs in Ethiopia and Rwanda had large positive effects on land investments and farm yields, especially among female-headed farm households.

Land-use rights held by women in Vietnam had a number of beneficial effects, including higher household expenditures (per capita expenditures were 5.3 percent higher when certificates were held by women and only 3.6 percent higher when they were held by men), higher education for women and lower daily hours of housework.

Farmer groups, associations or collectives can provide individual women producers with access to markets and help overcome constraints they face in meeting the demands of agricultural supply chains.

Successful projects with small-scale women farmers or agricultural producers are those that provide an integrated suite of services rather than one single service. The services must target production and marketing and be tailored to address social constraints. Single services may be enough to improve the productivity of women with larger farms, more assets, and more control over their assets. Common services provided include modern farm inputs, such as fertilizer, seeds and irrigation, knowledge and extension, and financial services.

Some common lessons for improving productivity for entrepreneurs on and off the farm include rural electrification as well as providing price information via mobile phones. In addition, interventions targeting rural producers are more likely to succeed in settings where women have a greater degree of autonomy.

In Uganda, farmer groups and women’s networks disseminate messages helping to close the gender gap in access to information on new varieties and farm management practices. Producer groups in Bangladesh have used group savings to purchase dairy cows in the groups’ name.

In India, a rural electrification program that increased coverage from 74 percent of rural households with electricity in 2005 to 91 percent in 2011 increased hours in employment by more than 17 percent for women and only 1.5 percent for men. Electricity extended the hours of operation of household businesses and per capita household income and food expenditures increased significantly with access to electricity. Poverty incidence decreased significantly.

Increasing the Productivity and Earnings of Rural Women: What Works?

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Microfinance supports mainly informal activities that often have a low return and low market demand. It may therefore be hypothesized that the aggregate poverty impact of microfinance is modest or even nonexistent. If true, the poverty impact of microfinance observed at the participant level represents either income redistribution or short-run income generation from the microfinance intervention.

Closing the Gender Asset Gap: Learning from Value Chain Development in Africa and Asia

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Microfinance clients were randomly assigned to repayment groups that met ei- ther weekly or monthly during their first loan cycle, and then graduated to identical meeting frequency for their second loan. Long-run survey data and a follow-up pub- lic goods experiment reveal that clients initially assigned to weekly groups interact more often and exhibit a higher willingness to pool risk with group members from their first loan cycle nearly two years after the experiment.

Women’s Economic Empowerment in Agriculture: Supporting Women Farmers

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Microcredit has spread extremely rapidly since its beginnings in the late 1970s, but whether and how much it helps the poor is the subject of intense debate. This paper reports on the first randomized evaluation of the impact of introducing microcredit in a new market. Half of 104 slums in Hyderabad, India were randomly selected for opening of an MFI branch while the remainder were not.

“You Can’t Eat Cotton”: Evidence on Crop Portfolios and Gender from Benin

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Nearly 60% of Uganda's population is aged below 20. This generation faces health challenges associated with HIV, coupled with economic challenges arising from an uncertain transition into the labor market. We evaluate the impacts of a programme designed to em- power adolescent girls against both challenges through the simultaneous provision of: (i) life skills to build knowledge and reduce risky behaviors; (ii) vocational training enabling girls to establish small-scale enterprises.

Good and Efficient? Women’s Voice in Agriculture

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Nearly 60% of Uganda's population is aged below 20. This generation faces health challenges associated with HIV, coupled with economic challenges arising from an uncertain transition into the labor market. We evaluate the impacts of a programme designed to em- power adolescent girls against both challenges through the simultaneous provision of: (i) life skills to build knowledge and reduce risky behaviors; (ii) vocational training enabling girls to establish small-scale enterprises.

Land Rights and Economic Security for Women in Vietnam

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Individuals and business owners engage in an increasingly complex array of financial decisions that are critical for their success and well-being. Yet a growing literature documents that in both developed and developing countries, a large fraction of the population is unprepared to make these decisions. Evidence on potential remedies is limited and mixed.

A Meta-Analysis of Land Rights and Women’s Economic Well-Being

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Expanding access to commercial credit is a key ingredient of financial development strategies. There is less consensus on whether expanding access to consumer credit helps borrowers, particularly when loans are extended at high interest rates. Popular skepticism about "unproductive," "usurious" lending is fueled by research highlighting behavioral biases that may induce overborrowing.

Investing Cash Transfers to Raise Long-Term Living Standards

The authors test whether poor households use cash transfers to invest in income generating activities that they otherwise would not have been able to do. Using data from a controlled randomized experiment, they find that transfers from the Oportunidades program to households in rural Mexico resulted in increased investment in micro-enterprise and agricultural activities. For each peso transferred, beneficiary households used 88 cents to purchase consumption goods and services, and invested the rest.

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