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More Gender Parity Needed in Montserrat's Agriculture Sector

According to the recently released Montserrat Country Gender Assessment (CGA) the island lacks parity in the number of women in the agricultural sector.

The CGA notes that “in the absence of an agricultural policy or plan, the Montserrat Agricultural Department indicates that it operates in a gender-neutral environment towards all farmers, not showing any bias and giving equitable opportunities to both sexes. However, if the national aim is to achieve self-sufficiency in selected food products, the disparities of 81.58% and 100% males in the agriculture sector and the hunting, forestry and fishing industries, respectively, compared to 18.42% and 0% females in the same areas, warrants strategic national intervention to ensure that the untapped resource of females in the labour force are utilised.”

During the study participants were asked to identify their views on various roles. All the participants identified the role of a farmer to be male, while that of a machine operator was identified as male by all the women and the majority of the men. Cooking was associated with females by 91.7% of men and 75% of women.

The majority of women in agriculture (57%) have concentrated their efforts in hoop house farming, where approximately 200 square feet of land is used, compared to the majority of men, who practice open land farming on larger plots.

Farmers in Montserrat mainly grow vegetables and bananas for subsistence and local market consumption, with exports currently non-existent. Small ruminants, pigs and poultry and larger animals to a lesser extent are raised as livestock. Agri-business in Montserrat is mainly comprised of cottage processing of cassava bread, jams, jellies, sauces, wines, etc.

“The fact that women in Montserrat have generally not seen employment in agriculture as a viable means of livelihood confirms the observation by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (2010) that the Caribbean has a limited number of women engaged in the agricultural labour force,” the report stated.

Agricultural workers in Montserrat have access to extension services, tractors, seedlings and duty-free concessions from the state. Under the former MDC’s business loan scheme only men applied and received funding for agricultural ventures. The report suggests that any future schemes should target the under-represented sex in agri-business, exploring partnerships for agricultural training for workers in the industry. It also calls for the establishment of a processing facility with training programmes available for women and men to prepare goods for the export market. A partnership between the state and private landowners to make special provision for women to farm the land in order to increase the agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP was also recommended.

The CGA highlighted the following Gender Entry Points in the area of Agriculture:

  • Develop a gender-sensitive agricultural sector plan/ policy that include an assessment of constraints faced by women and men in entering the industry.
  • Engage young people at an early stage, namely primary and secondary levels, with specific vocational training and university scholarship opportunities and a special emphasis on girls in order to assist is closing the gender gap and ensure sustainability of the agricultural sector.
  • The MDC’s services access to finance, processing facilities, access to overseas markets, access to agricultural loans and insurance.

The study was commissioned by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in partnership with the Government of Montserrat and Rawwida Baksh & Associates. The aims were to:

i. critically analyse the national capacity for and constraints to gender mainstreaming in government, the private sector and civil society (including legislation, policy, institutional structures and mechanisms, financial and human resources, knowledge and skills, etc.); and

ii. Uncover the links between gender equality and the different socio-economic life chances of women and men to enable the CDB to provide support for a more gender-responsive programme on poverty reduction, economic growth and sustainable development; iii. Identify the constraints, opportunities and risks for the CDB to promote gender equality in its development programmes.

A research mission to Montserrat was conducted during 2–13 June 2013. Quantitative and qualitative date comprising semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions and statistics derived from primary and secondary data were the research methods used. National and international reports, policy documents and legislation were reviewed and the technique of triangulation was used to validate the data. Young people from the secondary school and the local Rotary Club were further consulted to provide clarity on issues pertaining to youth and the business community unearthed during the three discussions.

Read the full report here ….