German women tend to benefit less than men from the support programmes of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Juliane Vees, the first vice-president of the German Association of Women in Agriculture, told EURACTIV Germany in an interview.
Read the interview in its original German here.
“Gender equality, including women’s participation in agriculture” is one of the CAP’s ten main EU-wide objectives for the 2023-2027 funding period and is also meant to guide implementation at the member state level, known as national strategic plans.
In Germany, for example, the CAP plan identifies “gender equality” as a “high priority” matter. But this is easier said than done for many, and several obstacles still exist.
“There are greater hurdles for women in implementation on the ground,” said Vees, a farmer in the state of Baden-Württemberg who has been following the situation “for years”.
Thirty-six per cent of workers in Germany’s agriculture sector are women, according to 2020 data, but this does not necessarily translate into the percentage of those receiving funding.
While commitments exist on paper, the association believes the main problem is that financial support programmes offered by the CAP for agriculture and rural development regions are often not tailored to the need and preferences of women.
For instance, support measures with a high financial volume often deter women from taking advantage of them.
“They prefer to start low-threshold and on a smaller scale, and then see: Does a project work? Only then do they want to go to the next step up,” explained Vees. But such a phased approach is not provided for in most programmes, she said.
Due to a lack of awareness and tailored advisory services, women often “don’t even think of applying” for programmes like the Agricultural Investment Promotion Programme (AFP) which facilitates investments in machinery, new plants or modernisation measures, Vees added.
Men in high places
Moreover, investment support and other CAP subsidies often go through the farm manager or farm owner, who “is usually the man”, Vees also said, meaning that women are generally not involved in the process even if they conceive and implement the end project.
In Germany, women managed only one in ten farms as of 2021.
Women “are not visible on paper, not eligible to apply [due to not being farm managers], and the profit and financial benefit that comes out of it at the end of the day is not theirs,” she added.
The imbalance in who manages farms also means that women who have to leave a family-run farm, for instance, due to divorce, “often walk away with nothing.”
Meanwhile, the situation is not much better for the younger generation: Currently, only 14% of farms are passed on to female successors.
The European Commission also pointed to Germany having to address the “differences in income between the sexes” or “the gender gap among farm managers, especially young farmers” in its letter of observation on the strategy plan submitted by Germany.
Training and consulting
Meanwhile, the gender gaps in farm management and succession are also propelled by a lack of awareness of the problem, according to Vees.
In most cases, she explained, the decision to designate the man as manager of a family farm rather than the woman is not one taken consciously but is treated as a given.
To tackle the issue, public institutions must take measures on a larger scale “to give more information to women – but also to men”, she added.
According to her association, education and counselling must be better tailored to women to help them set up their businesses or to make a career transition into agriculture. Family counselling for farmers – via the CAP’s pillar on rural development, for example – is something the association is also pushing.
Since Germany has already submitted its national CAP strategic plan to Brussels at the start of the year, Vees is banking on the federal states to make the necessary changes as they can act as the ‘decisive adjusting screw’ when it comes to the allocation of funds.
“We sincerely hope that the federal states will go the extra mile in the design of their second pillar and give more attention to the issue of gender equality in the CAP,” she stressed.
Quotas and decision-making
The association is thus calling for a 40% quota of women on monitoring committees to allocate funds from the LEADER programme for rural development.
LEADER funds are allocated through so-called local action groups on the ground, which decide what kind of regional projects are to be supported by EU funds.
“We simply see quite clearly that if regions have too few women in the monitoring bodies, then the thematic fields and the areas that receive grants through LEADER are naturally also more male-dominated,” Vees explained.
Despite having moved in the right direction regarding gender equality, the CAP is still far from having exhausted its potential, Vees also said.
“Equality on paper is nice to have, but it must now be implemented. Otherwise, the rural exodus among young women will become stronger,” she added.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]