How to Address the Gender Issues in Agriculture and Rural Development in Ethiopia?

Agriculture is the dominant sector of the Ethiopian economy and its performance is the major determinant of overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which accounts for almost 41%. The role that women play and their position in meeting the challenges of agricultural production and development are quite dominant and prominent. Despite this, women have been left out of the formal agriculture extension process and the formal structures for rural development. Unless the gender issues in agriculture are addressed, rural development cannot be achieved in Ethiopia. Hence this paper examines the constraints facing by women’s complete integration into the agricultural and rural development process and the mechanism to mitigate the situation. Women are invariably involved in most aspects of agricultural production including weeding, harvesting, preparing storage containers, managing all aspects of home gardens, poultry raising, transporting farm inputs to the field, procuring water for household use and some on-farm uses, marketing, food procurement, and household nutrition. Even though women contribute a lot for agricultural development, they face different constraints, mainly because of their lack of access to resources, smaller land size and tend to suffer from landlessness. Furthermore, women tend to use more labour on their plots which increases their expenses for land management and eventually reduces their income. Women are assigned the ‘little’ tasks such as weeding, storing and processing, hand-harvest of some cash-crops; culturally, it is not acceptable for women to sow or plant. Generally there is a division of ownership of livestock, where large animals are considered belonging to the men and small ones to the women. A serious lapse in the country’s agricultural extension system had hitherto being that it was pro-male and gender-insensitive towards women farmers. Also they face risk to health such as rape, early marriage, HIV/AIDS etc. However, such issues can be addressed through making policies for equal access to and control over resources, increasing skills and knowledge, increasing participation in market oriented agriculture production, strengthening women’s decision making power, increasing accessibility of technology, improving wellbeing and easing workload etc.