Women Lead the Way in Sustainable Agriculture

Development experts believe gender equity will be critical to global food security in the coming decades, as the world’s farmers struggle to produce food for a rapidly growing population on a shrinking area of arable land. In Latin America, one in five farmworkers is a woman, and in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, half of all agricultural laborers are women. Yet despite being just as skilled as their male counterparts, women in developing countries have less access to resources (such as credit), and therefore lower crop yields.

At the same time, numerous studies have shown that when women control household income, they are more likely than men to spend money on their families (food, clothing, and health-related items)—with benefits for the entire community. Research shows a 20 percent increase in childhood survival rates when women manage their household budget. And when women farmers are given equal access to resources, education, financing, and land rights, they can increase farm yields by 20 to 30 percent.

For all of these reasons, women trainers are critical to the Rainforest Alliance’s work to foster gender equity and sustainable transformation. Here, we celebrate the work of four outstanding women Rainforest Alliance trainers who have devoted their careers to helping farmers improve their livelihoods and conserve high-value forests.

Reiko Enomoto

Reiko Enomoto

Reiko Enomoto

Teaching farmers around the world about the com­plexities of responsible farming in an engaging, memorable way is a top priority for our lead agriculture trainer Reiko Enomoto. To develop training materials, Reiko consults with local farmers and trainers to decide on appropriate, low-cost solutions to their challenges and then develops a set of visual and interactive training materials that local trainers and farmers can use long after she has gone.  Hundreds of thousands of farmers have received Rain­forest Alliance training based on Reiko’s materials and methodology, which boast the flair of this once-professional salsa dancer and piano composer who speaks 11 languages (five of them fluently).

"If training was as fun as watching a salsa dancer, everyone would watch it. If it was as fun as listening to piano music composed on the spot, no one would fall asleep."

Reiko Enomoto

 

Melanie Bayo

Melanie Bayo

Melanie Bayo

After several years working as the first accredited woman sustainable agriculture auditor in all of Africa, agronomist Melanie Bayo turned her focus to training farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, the world’s number one cocoa-producing country, in our climate-smart farming methods.  A major focus is designing train­ings that changes farmer’s long-held practices—to persuade farmers to keep shade trees standing, for example, rather than cutting them down for extra money.  In addition to training farmers all over Côte d’Ivoire and being the founding director of our key sustainable agricul­ture partner in West Africa, Melanie is also a mother of triplets. 

“It’s not difficult to bring everyone in the same place for discussion. It’s working for sustainability, working for social stability, helping farmers.”

Melanie Bayo

Siska Dewi

Siska Dewi

Siska Dewi

Even with years of rigorous study with a Balinese NGO and at university in the United States under her belt, Fransiska “Siska” Dewi says she has learned the most from the cocoa farmers she works with as a Rainforest Alliance field coordinator in Sulawe­si, Indonesia.  Siska trains the cocoa farmers in climate-smart agricultural methods that build resilience to drought, shorter rainy seasons, and severe weather events.  While Siska is serious about sharing climate resilience techniques, she characterizes her interactions with farmers and their families as joyful. “We always have a lot of laughs because of our misunderstandings—there are a lot of differences in languages and customs across Indonesia.” Fami­lies often invite her to stay with them at the end of a long work day.

“I moved from Bali to Sulawesi to do this job, and I basically give my life to it. But it doesn’t feel like work because I love what I’m doing.”

Siska Dewi

Nadege Nzoyem

Nadege Nzoyem

Nadege Nzoyem

Photo credit: FAO/Roberto Cenciarelli

Growing up in western Cameroon, Nadège Nzoyem always knew she wanted to work in forestry, like her uncle—even though it was, and is still, a male-dominated field.  Today, she’s a nationally recognized expert in community forestry who oversees the Rainforest Alliance’s work with rural com­munities across Central Africa. She knows that in order to conserve the ecologically precious forests of the Congo Basin—a largely intact expanse of tropical rainforest second only to the Amazon in size—local communities must be able to earn a decent living through sustainable activities. That’s why Nadège works to share both farming and forestry strategies that boost the villagers’ earning potential and climate resilience while protecting forests, wildlife, waterways, and soils. In Cameroon, she has strengthened conservation efforts across 12 community forests that cover about 74,000 acres (30,000 ha) and are home to some 10,000 people. 

Ramon nut, a sustainable superfood - photo by Sergio Izquierdo

How will we feed the 9.8 billion people who will share Earth in 2050?