According to data published by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in 2018, women’s participation in agriculture rose from 12.7% to 18.6% between 2006 and 2017. To contribute towards further progress in this scenario, member institutions of the Development and Integrated Growth Program with Sustainability (PDCIS), an Odebrecht Foundation initiative, have been encouraging women empowerment in the field.
According to Rita Cardoso, director of the Agroforest Family House (Cfaf), it is essential that young female farmers be aware of their role in society. “Women have to be wherever they want and have the conditions for doing so, to face challenges and take over any position. What we reinforce in our woman students is that they can reach anywhere. For this, we must have education that is relevant to the context and that empowers, especially in the field.”
Heading Cfaf since 2014, Rita says that she has been sharing her experience with students as an incentive. “I always say that we need to debunk the idea that we can’t do an activity in the field. Yes we can, and can also be a reference in this,” she added.
Strengthening of identity
Being surrounded by independent women makes the difference for Júlia Teles. The 17 year-old third-year student of the President Tancredo Neves Rural Family House (CFR-PTN) she says that the presence of such women makes her stronger. “When a girl sees a woman in a leadership role, she thinks: ‘I can do it.’ She recognizes herself there. We become more confident, it’s an inspiration.”
For Júlia, her professors at CFR-PTN are a source of pride. “They are educators, work in the field and teach what they learned. It’s very important to have these role models and know that, if I like the land and I like to plant, I can be in the rural area and live like that. We need to break the idea that agriculture is for only men,” she said.
Equity is also a goal of the Presidente Tancredo Neves Rural Producers' Cooperative (Coopatan). According to Adriana Resende, the administrative manager, the treatment is the same for both genders. “At the Presidente Tancredo Neves region, where Coopatan is based, women participate in field activities, especially in the context of family agriculture, where everybody plants together. At the cooperative, treatment is equal both in the field as in management. 50% of our staff is made up of women,” she points out.
Valcí Santos is one of the member farmers of Coopatan. She joined the institution in 2018. With technical support for growing banana and cassava, sold by the cooperative, she has been securing income for her family. “The support helps a lot. Back then, you planted on your own and lost produce because you didn’t know exactly what to do,” she said.
Future in the field
For seven years at the Land Conservation Organization (OCT), where she is responsible for social and environmental planning, Bruna Sobral believes that women’s role in the field is becoming more evident. “Beneficiaries are always participating. We have cases in which, at the supported households, it’s the female farmer who is in charge of the property. OCT seeks to create opportunities for men and women in all activities. And with that, what we see is the growing presence of female producers in the rural area,” she explained.
According to 2018 data, at the Family Houses, around 44% of the students enrolled were girls. Just as significant is the percentage of women on the boards of the institutions: 45%. One of them is Naiane Félix, member of the Audit Board of Rural Family House of Igrapiúna (CFR-I). A resident of Camamu in the state of Bahia, and mother of Lígia Félix, the 2nd year student at this school says that she has a close relationship with the Family House. “I’m proud of my daughter studying here. In the region, our kids go to CFR-I and we learn from them. This is very important because we work in the field for a long time, but we didn’t know about new techniques,” she said.
Naiane’s family always worked in the rural area. Today, she plans to support her daughter in producing chocolate and staying in the field. “They used to say women couldn’t work in the farm. Never saw that as an obstacle, but as an incentive to show it’s possible to do whatever we want. For that, I believe the school gave me an even greater stimulus. I can cultivate in the field and see the results of my efforts. Lígia inspires me a lot. I can see knowledge flowering in her and that is transforming,” she highlighted.