The agricultural sector has always been a cornerstone of Lebanon’s economy, providing a source of income and sustenance. The emergence of working women in this sector symbolizes the breaking of societal biases and barriers. Historically, gender roles in Lebanese society assigned women to domestic responsibilities and men to agricultural practices, but this dynamic has been changing over time. Today, women make up 43% of the agricultural labor force (FAO, 2022). They actively participate in various agricultural activities, including planting, raising livestock, marketing, and sales, while men increasingly move to urban areas. The contribution of women to the country’s prosperity in this domain has brought both challenges and opportunities.
A growing number of Lebanese women are pursuing agricultural studies, displaying a keen interest in the sector and actively participating in it. They challenge traditional gender roles and assert their place in both business and farming activities. Women’s involvement in agriculture is evident in cooperatives, where activities like processing goods such as jam, pickles, and dairy products have become traditional. Participation in cooperatives grants them access to shared resources and fosters agricultural development through community work.
In addition to being farmers, women in urban areas are taking on leadership and entrepreneurship roles in the sector advocating for gender equality and empowering other women to break societal barriers.
Despite witnessing a shift in gender roles, women in Lebanese agriculture still face challenges. One major issue is the significant gender pay gap, which limits their financial stability and independence. They often receive only half the pay compared to men (FAO, 2021) for the same work, leading to their perception as inexpensive labor in the sector. Moreover, women are less likely to own and manage farms compared to men, as the latter continue to dominate agricultural land ownership, creating unequal access to opportunities and decision-making authority for women in the domain.
The way tasks are divided among genders can also be a challenge for women, as they are often assigned tasks like harvesting and planting, while men take on managerial and technical responsibilities, hindering progress and skill improvement for women. In the livestock sector, men predominantly handle animal health and business planning, leaving women with the remaining tasks. Another challenge faced by many women in Lebanon is the lack of awareness of their rights, particularly in rural areas. This makes them more susceptible to exploitation and accepting unfair labor conditions.
To achieve gender equality in the agricultural sector, more must be done. Ensuring equal access to opportunities and resources and formulating policies that support women in agriculture is crucial. Efforts should be made to raise awareness among women in rural areas about their rights and financial matters to prevent them from accepting low-paying or unpaid labor work. By empowering women and promoting gender equality in agriculture, Lebanon can unlock the full potential of this vital sector.
Lebanon is one of the participating countries in the PRIMA project, with a commendable level of female national contribution, accounting for 35% of the total participation (Prima Gender Report, 2022). One of the project’s goals is to promote female inclusivity and advocate for gender equality. Lebanon aims to foster an environment that encourages equal opportunities and representation for women in the agricultural sector. By actively involving women in the BONEX-PRIMA project, Lebanon will be able to create a society where both men and women can contribute their expertise towards sustainable development.