Like their sisters all over the developing world, women farmers work hard to grow food for themselves and their families, and for sale. They plant and tend, fertilize and weed, harvest and process -- in short, do all it takes to produce a crop. But they don't get much in return. Their yields are low and, even if some crops are sold, the women may not see any income since men who take the crop to market may not feel obliged to share it.
When international development projects come around to try to change these conditions, they don't always reach out to women farmers. They assume that the women are not the "real" farmers because they don't own land or go to market, or because they have other household responsibilities such as fetching water and caring for children.
However, studies done in many developing countries show that women undertake a variety of farm work along with their household chores. Despite this reality, women are left out of projects that offer new technologies, improved fertilizers or training in practices that could help them produce more. Other studies show that when women have the same access as men to such farming resources, women could produce more, earn more and live better lives.
Fortunately, there is growing support for women farmers like those I met in Tanzania. It comes from the highest levels in global agreements like the G8 L'Aquila Food Security Initiative -- which committed $20 billion over three years for sustainable agriculture development -- and policies such as the United States Agency for International Development's Feed the Future initiative.