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NOWARA on women in agriculture: Official statistics do not reflect the real size of women’s participation || Newspapers (Arabic)

12-12-2012

In its issue of Saturday, December 8th, the As Safir newspaper published the results of an official survey on women’s participation in agriculture in which they are playing an active role and increasing productivity.  However and according to observers, the extent of women participation remains unclear and poorly documents.  The rights of women in agriculture also remain sidelined partly as a result of the overarching stereotype which undermines women’s position as well as the absence of systematic tracking and monitoring of women’s role and contribution as part of on-going studies and researches.

In her interview with As Safir, the head of the National Observatory of Rural Women (NOWARA), Ms. Wafa Dikah noted that although the Ministry of Agriculture produces gender desegregated data, however, this is still not sufficient in reflecting women’s actual contribution despite the fact that women are involved in diverse agricultural sectors such as agro-processing, rural agriculture, seasonal agriculture, land ownership as well as several other sectors.  Dika noted that current statistics do not distinguish between seasonal agricultural women workers and business holders, a matter which does not help in understanding the real size of women’s participation in agriculture.  She also indicated that the income of women in agriculture is only one third of that of men (women are paid LBP 8,000 per hour of work whereas men are paid LBP 12,000).  Another shortfall noted by Dika was the fact that agriculture workers who are included in statistics, whether women or men, are only those who are registered with agricultural institutions. Rural women are often not counted although they assume ownership of land parcels which means that they work and harvest their own land and contribute to national agricultural production.  The official survey also noted that women’s participation in dairy production is quite high reaching 63%.  In addition, there are some 120 registered rural women cooperatives who market locally with some marketing externally as well.
In a related vein, the president of the syndicate of agro-industries, George Nesrawi, noted that 35 to 40% of the workers in these industries are women but that only 2% of the agro industries are owned by women.
For his part, the advisor to the Minister of Labour, Dr. Salah Hajj Hassan, refuted in his interview with As Safir that women are not included in the Ministry’s programmes or statistics saying that the issues raised by NOWARA are secondary and related to the perspective of NOWARA but does not touch the basics  .  Hajj Hassan described the different agricultural sectors in which women are involved namely livestock, dairy production as well as other sectors and were they constitute some 40% of the total size of the sector.  Hajj Hassan noted that the Ministry is about to initiate a programme to support the agricultural sector and improve the work conditions as well as put in place regulatory mechanisms.  This programme was adopted by the government two years ago and will lead to increasing investment in agriculture.
Also with regards to statistics, it is to be noted that official statistics related to agriculture are issued every ten years only.  In 1998, the percentage of women who own land and their family was 30% of total whereas the percentage of recorded women workers in agriculture was 18% of total.  In 2010, women holders of agricultural land dropped to 8.6%. However and according to Dika, the main weakness in these figures is that the Ministry did not analyse them and did not disaggregate the sub-sectors where women are active, as such, women’s actual role in agriculture was not documented properly.

Finally, what is disturbing in the Ministry’s latest statistics which were communicated by Dika is the limited engagement of young women and men in agriculture.  Indeed, women involved in agriculture and who are less than 25 years old do not exceed 1.1% of total women whereas the number of women in the 25 to 34 age bracket constitutes 5.4%, those between 25 and 44 reach 15.6%, while the percentage rise to 24.2% for those between 45 to 54 years old and to 31.3% for those above 55 years.

Source: Al-Safir 8 December 2012

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