Agriculture is one of the Gates Foundation’s largest initiatives. Our goal is to support countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that are committed to transforming their agriculture sectors to support smallholder farmers while ensuring they are receiving adequate pay for their work to produce nutritious food. To achieve this goal, we provide countries with the necessary support to ensure productivity of smallholder farms and their access to lucrative markets that will purchase the surplus of crops and livestock. Our work includes investing in scientific research to develop new agricultural innovations that target smallholder farmers. We also strive to make sure women have access to the same technology, inputs, land, and support as men.

This past year has been particularly exciting for the Gates Foundation as we built our first strategy for women’s economic empowerment (WEE), led by our Gender Equality team. Our strategy focuses on women’s financial inclusion, market inclusion, secure land tenure, and self-help groups.

On average, women’s empowerment scores across countries show that women are twice as disempowered as men. Solving these inequities requires a shift in the current approach to policymaking. Policies and programs need to become better attuned to the issues that undermine women farmer’s economic opportunities, and better designed to meet their needs. Women’s access to productive assets also needs to be prioritized. Moreover, since our overarching goal is to see large-scale change that increase women’s incomes and their control of that income, we need to leverage the most dynamic force available, the marketplace. Solving for women’s market inclusion requires a dedicated approach to increasing their participation and their value capture in society.

Read more about gender equality by Max De Faria at Food Tank.