Updated on July 1, 2019

Gender equality is vital to achieving a sustainable future in agriculture. The UTZ program addresses gender equality in two ways: through the UTZ Code of Conduct, and through partnerships and projects at landscape and sector level. Global Lead Gender Joky François explains why gender equality is important and how this works in practice.

There are at least 560 million female farmers and farm workers in the world, and women comprise, on average, 43% of the agricultural labor force. These women face a unique set of challenges.

Challenges for women

Cocoa beans being dried in Ghana

Social norms often imply that female farmers face difficulties accessing land, which in turn affects their access to credit and membership of cooperatives. This makes it difficult for women to participate in training, or have access to information and new innovations.

Moreover, women are mainly responsible for taking care of the family and most tasks in the household. This additional burden leaves little time to invest in farming.

Studies show that if women had access to the same resources, training and information as male farmers, they could produce 20-30% more crops than they do now.

Women processing coffee on UTZ certified farm in Brazil

“While we see that women face fewer opportunities than men in all countries, things are slowly changing,” says Joky. “More organizations and companies are promoting gender equality. There are still big challenges, but it has become clear for more and more actors that working towards gender equality has a positive impact on the level and quality of production, and above all on families as a whole. Ultimately, it leads to more resilient societies.”

Our two-way approach

“The UTZ Code of Conduct for farmers promotes gender equality as an integral part of sustainable farming,” says Joky. “The Code specifies there should be a person or committee responsible for equal rights and opportunities for women. We promote awareness-raising sessions on gender equality, and monitoring of training to make sure women have the same opportunities as men to participate.”

In terms of working conditions, requirements in the Code focus on non-discrimination, equal pay for equal jobs, and encouraging disadvantaged groups to actively participate in workers’ and farmers’ organizations. Especially for plantations, there are also additional points on, for example, the right to maternity leave and the right for women to return to their jobs under the same conditions after having children.

Sector change

The Sector Partnerships program works across nine countries to address six different themes, and gender equality is integrated across them all. “Gender inequality is a structural problem, therefore it is very important for us to strengthen the capacities of local actors and link up with other actors – governments, companies, NGOs etc – to change minds and attitudes,” explains Joky. ”In Nicaragua for example, we are working with cooperatives in a project designed to build women’s leadership skills and economic empowerment.”

What will success look like?

UTZ tea farmer quote Kalimuthu Saraswathy Sri Lanka“It’s when men and women have equal access to knowledge, information and inputs, when female farmers and workers are able to express their needs and are actively present on decision-making platforms,” says Joky. “When there is equal pay for equal work, fair working conditions for both men and women, and measures are being taken to reduce gender-based violence. For us, it’s also when companies start writing equality into their contracts as a matter of course, and invest in making it happen.”

Marketing toolkit

Want to show your customers that you contribute to addressing gender equality by sourcing UTZ certified products? Download our gender toolkit and use the materials in your communication.

Gender equality and the new Rainforest Alliance

In January 2018 UTZ officially merged with the Rainforest Alliance to have a greater impact and be a better partner to the many stakeholders we work with. The new certification program of the merged organization is expected to be published in early 2020. For the new Rainforest Alliance the topic of gender equality remains of key importance and will be an integral part of both the Code of Conduct for farmers and the organization’s work at landscape and sector level.