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Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FEMAGREE (Female Agricultural Entrepreneurs: Identifying Institutional Barriers to Equality)


Background of the study For women in rural areas combining employment, family and household duties can be an insurmountable challenge. Despite a growing number of childcare facilities in rural areas, the distance between farm, work place and childcare facility can be a barrier...


Background of the study
For women in rural areas combining employment, family and household duties can be an insurmountable challenge. Despite a growing number of childcare facilities in rural areas, the distance between farm, work place and childcare facility can be a barrier for employment particularly for women from farm holdings. In Bavaria for example, only 39% of farmwomen are in employment, compared to 77% of women in Bavarian rural areas in general.
Many women in Europe today are well educated and have a desire for financial and professional independence. Some farmwomen start their own businesses in order to combine professional goals with family life and farm duties. Running their own businesses enables them to have flexible work times and their own income as well as a professional challenge. With their innovative business ideas they contribute to the quality of life in rural areas. However only few women currently start their own businesses in a farm environment.
The objective of this study was to find out how women on farms can be better supported in order to increase the number of female-run start-up companies in agriculture.

Three main conclusions can be drawn from this project: First, to increase the number of female-run agricultural start-ups women\'s confidence in creating and leading successful agricultural businesses needs to be nurtured. This includes, among others, to increase the number of female role models in this field as well as transferring business skills to women. Second, women who already started a business need support to be able to break out from a vicious cycle of a high workload, not having time for strategic business development, and not being able to pay employees for relief. Any support offered in this regard needs to be easy to access, consume little time and provide networking opportunities. Third, where husbands own the farm female agricultural entrepreneurs need to be made aware of the financial risks in case of a divorce and get advice on how to avoid this. At a more general level implementing the EU-strategy of gender mainstreaming into policy planning in the Departments of Agriculture of the EU member states would positively impact on the objective to grow farmwomen’s financial independence.

Work performed

For this purpose interviews and a workshop were conducted with 34 female farm-entrepreneurs in Eastern Bavaria and the West of Ireland. The case study areas are characterized by similar agricultural structures and in the past experienced the out-migration of young women. In these areas creating new employment opportunities for women would be very important.
Data for this project was collected in three steps: First qualitative interviews (19) were conducted in Eastern Bavaria; second, qualitative interviews (11) were conducted in the West of Ireland; third, a workshop was held with 13 female agricultural entrepreneurs in Eastern Bavaria. The interviews lasted on average 45 minutes, were recorded, transcribed and analyses using specific software package. Workshop results were documented and integrated into the overall results.

Comparing the results shows that women from both case study areas face similar, sometimes gender specific barriers. Many of the participants run their businesses with very high levels of work input. High workloads can become excessive where women are also responsible for household, family and care work. Holidays and other periods of recreation are almost non-existent. Typically the income made from the diversification business is modest. Once the business generates a decent profit the question remains as to how much is at the disposal of the women. It is not uncommon that the profits go back into the farm. If it is owned by the husband – which in this study was the case in a few instances in Bavaria, though not in Ireland – women are at economic risk in case of a divorce. Without pension planning or marriage contracts, the economic independence of these women entrepreneurs is questionable. Furthermore, the diversification businesses tend to be closely intertwined with the farm in terms of location, legal status and economics. One reason is that farm diversification schemes are not necessarily gender neutral. Usually the farm holder is entitled to apply for funding under these schemes. With the majority of farms owned by men (in Bavaria and Ireland more than 80%) payments are unbalanced from a gender perspective. In many of the studied diversification enterprises women are the managers, but on paper the husband is the owner in order to be entitled for payments. It would be important to follow up on this research with a quantitative study about to establish how much profit the diversification businesses generate and how much of it is available to the women now and in old age. More information is needed also on the divorce rate in agriculture as well as about the legal ownership status of the diversification businesses to identify the number of women at risk. This study points to a lack of awareness of farming couples about the necessity of pension planning; any education and training in the area of diversification should contribute to this.

The participants mentioned bureaucracy, access to finance, and employing people as key difficulties when starting and growing a business. In Ireland getting access to individual advice on technical business questions e.g. from the farm advisory service was difficult.

Participants in Bavaria had made positive experiences with the educational offers made by the Department of Agriculture; in Ireland some participants had taken part in the ACORNS business mentoring program for women in rural areas and highly valued its impact on further developing their businesses.

Overview of communication and dissemination of the results:
Article on Bayfor Website (non-scientific)
Interview, Irish farmers’ journal (non-scientific)
Presentation to Bavarian women in farming (non-scientific)
Marie Sklodowska Curie Ambassador, UCD, Dublin, Ireland (non-scientific)
5 Presentations to Bavarian farm advisors (non-scientific)
Presentation at the International Farm Advisor Conference (IALB), Salzburg,
Presentation at the European Seminar

Final results

This study provides useful insights into the question of whether female entrepreneurship is challenging or playing into traditional rural and farm gender stereotypes. For the most part it shows women on farms having to create their own employment and do so in a way that fits in with their continued responsibility for the reproductive roles in the domestic sphere. There is little evidence of these diversified enterprises challenging the patriarchal structures of agriculture and providing women with financial independence now and in old age. The study developed tools that would support women in agriculture to establish and grow businesses which can establish their financial independence. Such businesses would also contribute to employment and a greater range of services available in rural areas.

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