Around the world, women are integral to ensuring food security. As the industry becomes more advanced and entrepreneurial, the sector will be dominated by women who are more diverse, creative, and resilient.
Jennifer Del Rio grew up on a southern Philippine island dubbed ‘the land of promise’, where food is grown, harvested and consumed more cheaply than in other areas in the country. Her parents had a small farm producing broilers, layers and pigs, which provided food for the family and income for her education.
But she says it wasn’t until she’d done a philosophy degree and worked for a non-governmental project on improving crops and market access, that she fully grasped the challenges facing backyard farmers.
The experience was “like a treasure box being unlocked”, as she discovered her love for agriculture and the opportunities in the sector.
Now she works as Alltech’s sales manager in the Philippines, where she has been for six years. Her job involves spending a lot of time on-farm doing business with customers, from feed-millers, to commercial farmers, and dealers.
“I am a believer of we are what we ate, so with the innovations now in agriculture, we cannot just level-up our productivity, but must prosper by keeping our produce safe to eat and protect Mother Earth,” says Ms Del Rio.
What are the main challenges facing agriculture?
Climate change and global warming are huge challenges, says Ms Del Rio, and education on this could “make or break” people coming together to tackle it.
Telling the story of Alltech’s ‘Planet of Plenty’ initiative, is one way to educate people, she says. The Planet of Plenty vision calls for a new era of collaboration across industry sectors and geographical boundaries, to create a place where animals, plants, and people thrive in harmony.
“It is also wise to see how we can improve performance at the farm level, to provide nutritious foods for consumers using the latest innovations,” she adds.
What role do women play in agriculture? How might this change?
“Globally, there is an empirical evidence that women have a decisive role in ensuring food security,” says Ms Del Rio.
“We all know that agriculture is an important engine of growth that can reduce poverty. Women’s roles in managing complex household and multiple livelihood strategies to sustain their families, are clearly shown.”
But women’s roles will change as society does and technology becomes more advanced, predicts Ms Del Rio.
“Online business that indirectly involves agricultural enterprises is slowly rising, and women are the one’s good at it,” she says. “Entrepreneurship in promoting advanced agricultural will soon be dominated by women who are more diverse, creative, and resilient.”
Where are the opportunities for women in the sector?
There are opportunities at all levels of food and agriculture, says Ms Del Rio. “Currently in the Philippines, we have Filipina farmers, Filipina chefs, Filipina managers in FMCG and a lovely Filipina preparing food for every filipino family table.
“I believe that when we have a strong network of women in these sectors, we have a strong family, which is a basic unit in society, and a basic force in the agricultural and food industry.”
How can we inspire the future of women and diversity in our industry?
“I can’t think of a better way to inspire women than to tell my story,” says Ms Del Rio. “I believe my story is a testament to how agriculture and food provide us opportunities to be in school, to complete degrees, to start livelihoods, and learn from companies about maximising produce and marketing.”
What should agribusinesses be doing better?
“Getting everyone involved, including the young – that is the best way to further agriculture. That way food and the future are interconnected, so that these important sectors continue feeding the new breed of heroes, farmers and food producers.”