Women farmers feed their communities and the world. From the paddy terraces of Asia to the maize fields of sub-Saharan Africa, the woman farmer tills, plants, waters, and harvests crops that provide food security and nutrition for millions.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, women comprise 43 percent of the global agricultural workforce. This figure almost certainly underrepresents their actual contributions, due to gendered household roles, the distinction between formal and informal labor and food production, and the way care work is often left out of economic indicators.

In parts of the developing world, women farmers are the majority – rising to 57 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and 60 percent in South Asia.

And yet, less than 15 percent of landholders worldwide are women, preventing millions from unlocking the power and the potential to flourish as farmers.

A cross-cutting solution

This week, as we observe International Rural Women’s Day (Oct. 15), World Food Day (Oct. 16), and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (Oct. 17), it’s crucial to note that land is the foundation for all three.

As an economic asset, land is the cornerstone of rural economies. As a place for growing food, it is indispensable. And as a means for promoting opportunity and gender equity for millions of rural women, it is a waypoint on our journey to save the planet. Moreover, secure land rights for women and girls are fundamental rights that guarantee their identity and heritage.

If we want to improve lives and alleviate poverty, achieve food security globally, and guarantee human rights and full dignity for all, we must invest in land rights for women.

Worldwide, more than 80 percent of people experiencing extreme poverty live in rural areas and rely on agriculture to earn a living, farming small plots of land for subsistence and perhaps a modest income. At least half are women. Equipped with secure land rights, these women have the opportunity and peace of mind to invest in their land to improve their harvests and their lives.

Read the full article about land tenure by Esther Mwaura-Muiru at Skoll Foundation.