International Women’s Day
More than 1.2 million women receive support from BBVA Microfinance Foundation (BBVAMF) from five countries in Latin America. They are the majority of the more than 2.2 million entrepreneurs served by the Foundation. 29% of them live in rural areas, where they face greater challenges: they are more vulnerable and younger than their male counterpart. Only 32% of the rural female population work in agriculture, compared to 55% of rural male.
According to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), this is explained by a limited access to tools, land, financial resources, markets and skills training. But FAO also points out that should this gap be closed, crop productivity could see up to a 20% – 30% increase.
United Nations explains that climate change has a greater effect on women, thus making them more proactive. According to UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, “As early adopters of new agricultural techniques, first responders in crises and entrepreneurs of green energy, rural women are a powerful force that can drive global progress.”
BBVAMF offers specific financial products and services for farmers, focused on gender and environmental sustainability. These programs, designed in partnership with UN Environment Program (UNEP) among other international development organizations, include skills training to help farmers become more efficient and to protect the planet. FAO confirms that sustainable agriculture doesn’t only reduce contamination, it could also improve farmers’ income up to 40%.
Even if rural men outnumber rural women, the latter are more committed to protecting the environment. “Farmlands are still owned by men, but women are leading climate action, as they are the ones caring for their families and also the guardians of natural resources”, asserts BBVAMF head for Women’s Empowerment, Laura Fernández. Supported by data from the Foundation’s own social impact assessment for Dominican Republic, around 14% of rural women access to green loans, compared to only 7% of men.
Sandra Mendoza is an example. This female farmer, served by BBVAMF in Colombia, is the first ever woman to lead a coffee-growers’ committee in her community, traditionally chaired by men. She is also the first woman to use natural fertilizer in her farms, paving the way for the rest of the farmers –males and females alike– to follow her lead.