Thursday, November 3, 2011

Female Participation in Family Farming in Paraguay

The role of women in agriculture has been studied the world over and is an important issue for the Farmer to Farmer Program as well. Two volunteers recently had the opportunity to explore this and other topics in South America. James Murren, Program Coordinator for Purdue University’s International Extension Program, and Cheryl O’Brien, gender specialist, recently concluded an 18-day assignment in southern Paraguay. Murren and O’Brien visited small family farming communities and met with staff from the University of Asunción’s College of Agriculture to identify needs on family farms and ways in which women can contribute to farm sustainability. Paraguayan women remain a highly underutilized resource in agricultural production, with limited access to training programs and low involvement in agrarian reform.

Murren and O’Brien’s research focused on the southwestern territories of Ñeembucú and Paraguarí, where they were generously hosted by the Inter-American Institute on Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA)/Paraguay and the Paraguayan Ministry of Agriculture (MOA). Based on feedback from farmers, University staff and members of IICA and MOA, they were able to identify the following agricultural needs: general training in product diversification and commercialization; assistance with business planning and commercialization for honey products; training for women in bee-keeping; and integration of gender training into agricultural workshops. Reflecting on potential spaces for female participation, Murren and O’Brien highlighted beekeeping/honey production and family gardens as specific areas to be addressed in future Farmer to Farmer volunteer assignments.

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