Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects



Additional Departmental Affiliation

Diversity and Community Studies

Document Type



Women produce more than half of the world’s food, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization. This aligns with the Chinese proverb– “Women Hold up Half the Sky.” As the role of women in agriculture increases in the developed and developing world, female economic activity in agriculture serves as a beacon for poverty reduction, increased food security, and environmental sustainability. In the United States, there has been a 30-percent increase in the number of female-run farms in the U.S. since 2002 and women, now the largest “minority” group in agriculture in the U.S., operate approximately 300,000 farms throughout the country. In most of the developing world, the typical farmer is already a woman, often working with simple tools, barefoot, and with a child in-tow. The FAO stated that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 percent to 30 percent, which could lead to 100 million to150 million fewer people living in hunger. United Nations Millennium Development Goal 1: “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger” and Goal 3: “Promote gender equality and empower women”—are mutually reinforcing. When women grow food, nations grow stronger. By focusing on three different countries- India, Belize, and the United States, I will illustrate the data from the UN, FAO and USDA, introducing the reader to women farmers in each country who emulate challenge and triumph in producing food and making a living. In India, farmer suicides are leaving women in debt and without skills to pull themselves out. In Central America, women are being encouraged to farm by government sponsored programs such as the Belize’s Ministry of Agriculture “Woman of the Year” competition. In the U.S., women are farming more and doing it unconventionally and sustainably. Journalism offers the power to give voice to women farmers worldwide. As environmental reporting becomes a more predominant reporting niche, understanding the complexities of food system and its impacts on gender equality, poverty, malnutrition, politics and the economy becomes crucial.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Professor Gordon McKerral


Agriculture | Arts and Humanities