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By Matthew Cooper, Felly Tusiime, Madeleine Nyiratuza, Kame Westerman, Tabby Njung’e, Alice Ruhweza, Peter Alele and Alex Zvoleff

In the struggle to produce more food sustainably, create economic growth, and improve health outcomes across the developing world, women play a pivotal role.  Women often assume different agricultural roles than men: they grow more garden crops while men grow more commodity crops and field grains[1].  Women are also generally charged with childcare and eldercare, and pay more attention to household nutrition and child health.  At the same time, women also face significant burdens in patriarchal societies where they have less access to land and income.  Due to a range of legal and cultural constraints across Africa in land inheritance, ownership, access, control, and use, women make up only about 15 percent of agricultural land holders[2],[3].  However some countries are making more progress than others in the push for equality: in Rwanda, for example, women and men have equal rights to men with regard to land ownership, inheritance, access, control and use.

Vital Signs analyzed data it collected in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana to identify the key differences between female headed households and male headed households. The data Vital Signs has collected supports these narratives.  We used data from 820 households – 140 of which were headed by women – to analyze characteristics that were noticeably different between households headed by men and households headed by women.  Some of the starkest differences are in women’s access to agricultural capital.  Women own and farm smaller areas, and they use fewer pesticides, herbicides, or purchased seeds (see below).  This jibes with global data, which shows that female farmers only receive about 5% of agricultural extension services, while only 15% of the world’s extension agents are women[4].

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