On the occasion of the European Sustainable Development Week, Danièle Kapel-Marcovici, Chief Executive Officer of the RAJA Group and President of the RAJA-Danièle Marcovici Foundation, awarded two “Women and the Environment Coup de Coeur” prizes.
The National Federation for Organic Agriculture (Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique) is one of the two winning associations. We asked Stéphanie Pageot, organic farmer and administrator of the Federation, on the role of women in organic agriculture in France.
Stéphanie Pageot is an organic farmer and administrator of the National Federation for Organic Agriculture (FNAB in French). The FNAB is the only organisation representing organic farmers in France, and it advocates for farming and food alternatives respecting women, men and the environment. The RAJA-Danièle Marcovici Foundation supports the “Women and Organic Agriculture” initiative, led by the FNAB, which aims at training and accompanying women farmer’s establishment in organic agriculture.
From 2013 to 2018, when I was the FNAB’s President, I was surprised by the support I obtained from women organic farmers. They were happy to be represented by a woman… yet they did not feel able to get more involved in the Federation. In 2018, we led a national survey to know more precisely who those organic farmers were and to make them visible. We also tried to understand why we had troubles in having them to join the Federation. A collective of women and men farmers rallied the cause: the « Women and Organic Agriculture » project was born.
In France, on family farms, women are often overshadowed by their husband, even invisible… and sometimes under-recognised for their work and involvement. In the farming sector, if you do not know how to drive heavy equipment or if you do not work on the fields, you get very little recognition from your peers…
Yet women have a crucial role in the family farms functioning. They often handle administrative management and accounting. Women also develop local direct sales, diversification, touristic or leisure activities on the farm, etc. These are poorly recognised tasks while they are essential in business management, providing added value creation or opening-up to society and its expectations. Besides, women are very often the ones who initiate transition to organic agriculture on their farms!
From 1970 to 2010 in France, the part of women in the farming business has risen from 8 to 21% and today they represent a third of the new establishments each year. However, they encounter lots of barriers when they start their farms (limited access to the property, to bank loans…) but also in their ordinary work and professional obligations.
Women especially lack time… and, as a matter of fact, it is the main obstacle to the exercise of a professional mandate. The lack of time is inherent in the farming sector, but our study underlined that 66% of women organic farmers in a relationship oversee most of the household chores! Being a woman, a farmer, and taking political responsibilities means accepting to leave out the work on the farm and household chores without feeling guilty and without fearing to catch them up coming home. It is difficult to cope with this workload, even if, as women farmers, we say we are strong and able to handle it all.
To change the rules, a collective wake-up call is necessary. We must find solutions so that, tomorrow, women farmers do not have a double working day that prevents them from bringing new ideas and abilities in the farming sector, which really needs to renew and improve itself. Obviously, thinking about analysis bias is way easier and more natural than reconsidering our social relations. Yet, this our collective responsibility.
The stakes are high then. The more we are to get involved in this movement, the more likely gender equality is to become a social norm. It is a high-priority subject for the farming sector, and here again, organic agriculture must be a pioneer: beyond a mere change in production rules, our project is a social project.