Organic farming in Ukraine and the role of women

A common serious wartime challenge for businesses is the shortage of male labour. About 27% of organic farm managers in Ukraine are women.

Gender study organic sector of Ukraine

Gender issues are of particular importance for Ukraine.

Traditionally, the role of women in the Ukrainian society has always been very important. Today, due to the full-scale war, the shortage of male labour has become a serious challenge for businesses, and women are taking up “male” professions in large numbers.

In the near future, Ukraine’s post-war recovery will largely depend on women, as it must take into account many aspects, including the implementation of the European Green Deal, which is directly related to the participation of women who are the driving force behind green transformations.

Organic Initiative conducted a gender profile study of the Ukrainian organic sector to identify the roles of women and men in the organic sector, to study the changes taking place, in particular in connection with the full-scale war, as well as the challenges for the sector and possible ways to overcome them.

Within the study, 47% of the total number of organic market operators were surveyed, of which 72% were agricultural producers, 17% — processors, 7% — traders, and 4% indicated other activities.

According to statistics, at the beginning of 2021, women managed 20.8% of farms in Ukraine. And according to a recent study, about 27% of organic farm managers are women.

This difference with nonorganic agriculture can be explained, among other things, by the fact that organic farming is often started by people who do not have inherited traditional stereotypes and instead learn modern farming and business methods.

At the same time, there is also gender inequality in the organic sector in Ukraine, as well as stereotypes and prejudices that prevent women from improving their position. In particular, there are widespread stereotypes among sector representatives of both genders about the division of positions and responsibilities into “women’s” and “men’s” ones.

Only 19% of respondents name such top positions as director, director general, CEO, deputy director, etc. as women’s positions, while 48% of respondents consider these positions to be “men’s”.

A common serious wartime challenge for businesses is the shortage of male labour. 76% of respondents voiced this problem and mostly attributed it to men joining the army and other restrictions caused by martial law. And 62% of respondents also noted a shortage of technical specialists. In today’s realities, women have to take over traditionally male activities, but this requires automation of production processes to replace hard physical labour.

To support and stimulate positive trends in the organic sector, it is worth:

  • disseminating positive examples of women’s work, including in “male positions”, enhancing the image of women in the sector;
  • facilitating the formation of an infrastructure for the purpose of uniting, sharing experience, mutual assistance and support of women — potential managers and entrepreneurs;
  • promoting such specialities and faculties of universities and colleges among girls’ parents and girls themselves — future agricultural professionals;
  • facilitating the development of women’s entrepreneurship in the organic sector and to strengthen the role of women in society in general.

Download the full version of the study (in English).

The study was conducted in December 2023 – January 2024 by Organic Initiative Public Association (Ukraine) in partnership with research agency MZ HUB under the auspices of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine and with the support of Switzerland within the framework of the Swiss-Ukrainian program “Higher Value Added Trade from the Organic and Dairy Sector of Ukraine” (QFTP), implemented by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL, Switzerland) in partnership with SAFOSO AG (Switzerland).