African Women Farmers Are Major Beneficiaries of Herbicide Use, USAID Study Finds

Woman Weeding in Africa

Women Weeding in Africa

The burden of handweeding crop fields in Africa falls on women who spend about 50% of their time as farmers pulling weeds out by hand. This enormous amount of time for weeding prevents African women farmers from undertaking other farming activities such as the growing of cash crops. Herbicides would greatly reduce the need for weeding time and empower women to undertake other more lucrative activities.

“…the future of Malian agriculture will be increasingly determined by labor constraints. Herbicide use in Mali has doubled in the last 5 years in part in response to labor constraints and is likely to increase substancialy in the future. Herbicide use has very positive spillover effects on woman’s time and ability to work on their own crops or collect karite nuts. More extension work and agribusiness training is needed, along the lines of USAID’s IPM CRSP’s work in pesticide literacy and safety, to ensure safe and effective use of herbicides.

All labor saving technology, such as herbicide, is likely to have a gender impact not as much in women directly using it, but in it freeing up women’s time for more lucrative activities. For example increased use of herbicide would free up women’s time during the key time of year when they collect karite nuts, July-August, potentially engendering an increase in the production of karite butter and better women’s incomes.”

Author: Jeremy Foltz
Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Title: Opportunities and investment strategies to improve food security and reduce poverty in Mali through the diffusion of improved agricultural technologies.
Source: USAID: MALI. June 16, 2010. Available at: