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The Importance of Women in Urban Agriculture

Think about your favorite homemade recipe. Perhaps it’s that savory stuffing that your mother recreates without fail every Christmas. Or, it’s the birthday cake that your mother tries to recreate, but which your grandma does best. My personal food memories from my childhood and home are extensive, but they all have one thing in common: women. Many of these magicians in the kitchen have crafted most of these recipes with lots of love, tradition, and wisdom imparted upon them by other women.

According to FAO, rural women make up 43% of the agricultural workforce in developing countries. And this is without access to some of the resources that male farmers receive. But, what about those women in urban cities that contribute to the backbreaking labor of producing food in order to bring food to more than half of the world’s population now living in urban environments (UN)? Much like rural women, those in urban and peri-urban areas struggle to participate in a system that often fails to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women.

By mainstreaming gender into urban agriculture systems and policies, women’s work in urban food systems can be legitimized. Employment and income opportunities can be further diversified, strengthening urban livelihoods in uncertain crises, including increased food security. Localized food production will presumably lead to a greater intake of fresh foods, leading to better nutrition and health. Community food efforts will encourage social cohesion and community building, strengthening and creating new networks. And ultimately, the conversion of unused urban landscapes into green spaces will contribute to climate change mitigation and directly impact property and aesthetic value.

If we choose to value good, clean, and fair food, we must acknowledge the incredible role that women play in our complex urban food systems as well. We must encourage gender mainstreaming within planning and policy, while supporting women in achieving greater autonomy. This means evaluating women’s access to land resources, natural and financial capital, and agricultural extension services, as well as gendered divisions of labor that might disadvantage women. Importantly, those that are in positions of authority that choose to support such agendas, must follow through with such support.

So, the next time that you take a stroll in the city, stop by your local community garden or rooftop farm and speak to its producers. Take time to ask those men and women about their roles, as well as any potential opportunities to support them.

Taylor Pate


The Slow Food blog is welcoming contributions on the topics of Food, Farming and Agriculture. The contents may not entirely match the views of Slow Food, but reflect the journeys of the authors. To write for us please click here

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