Participation of women in the agricultural sector, rural institutions and community life – Jordan


The context

Although the contribution of the agricultural sector to the gross domestic product (GDP) and the labor force of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Jordan) has declined over the past decades, women’s participation in the agricultural sector remains a key source of development. jobs for the country’s poorest citizens, and also serves as a major source of livelihood and food security in the country. While only 2% of Jordan’s total labor force and 0.9% of its total female workforce were employed in agriculture in 2014 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO), about 25% of the overall poor in Jordan who live in rural areas continue to depend on agriculture as their main source of livelihood.

The agricultural sector in Jordan is also known to have the highest proportion of informal workers compared to other economic sectors. Sixteen percent of women working in the agricultural sector are informally employed, which is higher than the proportion of men (5%). According to the FAO, women in Jordan are also actively involved in home-based agricultural activities, usually managing small home gardens and tending the family plot. Despite the apparently active role of women in the agricultural sector, a review of existing literature and secondary data suggests that little up-to-date information is available on the subject of women’s participation in the sector, perhaps due to its informal nature. Although there is research on the challenges facing the agriculture sector in general, very little up-to-date gender-disaggregated data is available on the challenges specific to women working in the sector.

A better understanding of the roles and working conditions of women in the agricultural sector in Jordan, as well as the specific obstacles and challenges they face, is needed to enable development and resilience actors to improve women’s capacity to meeting their livelihood and food security needs through their engagement in this sector as well as enhancing the role of women in the wider rural economy.

Context and methodology of the evaluation

In light of these information gaps and given the relatively high importance of agricultural activities for rural women in Jordan, between January and July 2017, REACH, in collaboration with UN Women, conducted an assessment on rural women and their role in the agricultural sector in four governorates of Jordan: Irbid, Mafraq, Balqa and Karak. The agricultural areas of these four governorates have been divided into three zones based on the type of activity, similarities in climatic conditions and other common ecological and geographical characteristics. The three areas identified include the northeast (comprising most rural and peri-urban parts of Mafraq governorate), the rainfed highlands (comprising Rahab district in Mafraq and most rural and peri-urban parts of Irbid governorates, Karak and Balqa) and the Jordan Valley1. (comprising Ghour Safi in Karak Governorate, Shouna Shamaliya in Irbid Governorate and Shouna Janoubiya and Dair Alla in Balqa Governorate). The overall objective of the evaluation was to inform, through evidence-based recommendations, programming aimed at addressing gender barriers to rural women’s participation in the agricultural sector in Jordan. In support of this, this assessment aimed to improve understanding of the role of rural women in the agricultural sector and their leadership and community involvement, their specific activities and working conditions as well as the challenges to their participation and their remuneration in the sector.

To achieve these objectives, a mixed-methods approach was used comprising four phases: secondary data review, 16 key informant (KI) interviews, 24 focus group discussions (FGDs), and 1,154 household-level perception surveys. Key informant interviews were conducted with representatives of community-based organizations (CBOs), government officials, community leaders and other stakeholders working in Jordan’s agricultural sector, as well as key informants specializing in the relevant legal and policy framework. Focus group discussions were conducted separately with Syrian and Jordanian women and men involved in agricultural activities.

In addition, focus groups with women were stratified according to the two main types of agricultural activities in which they engage: home-based/small-scale farming and working in large-scale agriculture. Survey respondents included both Syrian and Jordanian women who had engaged in agricultural activities in the 12 months prior to the time of the survey

Lana T. Arthur