Rural women play a vital role in the rural economies of developed and developing countries. In most of the developing world they are involved in crop production; livestock care; providing food, water and fuel for their families; and participating in non-agricultural activities to diversify the livelihoods of their families.
The United Nations recognizes and values the role and contribution of rural women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty through the celebration of the International Rural Women’s Day. Monsanto Caribe joins the celebration by recognizing and valuing the role of women in agriculture and their contributions to rural development, which helps to improve food security and poverty eradication.
The first International Day of Rural Women was held on 15 October 2008. Since then, it is celebrated annually on 15 October. The fundamental purpose of commemorating this day is to highlight the contribution of agronomic women, mostly engaged in agriculture, food security, equal rights, accessibility of services, modern technology and the development of rural areas, not only Puerto Rico but throughout the world.
To achieve this it is important to support the development and improvement of all participatory processes with rural women as their protagonists, while reconciling their work and family life as well as recognizing their rights as laborers.
So on a day like today, we must reflect on what it means to be rural women, and what have been, and are, their important contributions to our society. But above all, the best tribute and recognition that everyone can do to rural women is extended this day in time, keeping in mind that without rural women, we would never have reached the level of prosperity that we can enjoy today.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture conducted by the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, Puerto Rico has 1093 women engaged in agriculture as principal farm operators. Monsanto currently employs 137 women, of which 55 are regular employees and 82 work on a temporary basis.
At Monsanto there are great success stories of women who are dedicated to the field of the agronomy, as is the case of Luz Velázquez, who has been a Research Associate for 21 years at Monsanto Isabela.
“I am the coordinator of a team working with soy. I’m in charge of coordinating all field activities, from receiving the seed to getting the product delivered to the customer, all in compliance with corporate procedures and government regulations,” said Velazquez.
Luz is responsible for two agronomists’ assistants, nine regular employees and 27 temporary employees. She is responsible for supervising research assistants, for complying with all procedures impacting the quality and quantity of the product to be delivered, while at the same time ensuring that her staff meets all safety requirements, because for her and Monsanto employee safety is paramount.
“I think we’ve been moving along quickly through the years and we are having more equality within the field of agriculture. At Monsanto, our management encourages diversity and women play a very important role within the company,” added Velázquez.
One of the values promoted at Monsanto is to create a great place to work through the diversity of people and thought; fostering innovation, creativity and learning; practicing inclusive teamwork; and rewarding and recognizing our people.
For Maritere Crespo, research associate and soybean increase project lead at Monsanto Isabela, the challenge that she has faced is, “practicing in a field which has historically been dominated by men. I believe that being able to prove that, as a woman, I have the same capabilities and I can cope with the same professionalism and safety with which any man would have has been one of my successes.”
“Part of my success I would say is to have male peer recognition within agriculture and the functions that I’ve played. I think success has been to have this partnership with men in order to face the challenges of agriculture,” said Crespo.
Meanwhile Veronica Miranda Gonzalez, operations supervisor in the manufacturing department at Monsanto Juana Díaz, says her greatest challenge has been, “to gain the trust and respect of my employees and my colleagues in this world that is traditionally positioned by men. I remember when I came to Monsanto, I was a recent graduate and a young girl. Most people whom I had in my charge were older men, who saw me as the girl who knew nothing of agriculture. Well, in a way they were right, because I did not have much experience, but little by little I’ve earned that trust, that respect and ultimately their willingness to be guided by me, that was my biggest challenge.”
According to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), if resource equity was taken into account, women could contribute much more to agriculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that if agronomic women, who make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, had the same opportunities as men, agricultural production in 34 developing countries would increase to an estimated average of up to 4 percent. This could reduce the number of malnourished people in developing countries by as much as 17 percent, translating to 150 million fewer malnourished people.
About Monsanto Caribe
Since 1996, Monsanto Caribe LLC has been part of the Puerto Rican seed breeding industry, using the tools of modern biology to help farmers successfully feed, clothe and fuel our growing world. Monsanto’s operations on the island consist of agricultural biotechnology research and development of the best corn, cotton, soybeans and sorghum seeds for farmers. The objective is to find the most desirable traits to improve crops and develop new seed with such traits. In Puerto Rico, the company has earned such honors as the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Los Mejores Patronos en Puerto Rico Award in the Medium Business Category, as well as being inducted in the Puerto Rican Agriculture Hall of Fame in April of 2013. To learn more about our business and our commitments, please visit: www.monsanto.com. Follow our business on Twitter® at www.twitter.com/MonsantoCo, on the company blog, Beyond the Rows at www.monsantoblog.com, or subscribe to our News Release RSS Feed.