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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘I ask the farmers of Ireland why their daughters are not their successors’

Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, has paid tribute to females’ contribution to agriculture and rural community development in Ireland.

She highlighted the imbalance in farm ownership in Ireland in the Seanad ahead of the UN International Day of Rural Women.

She explained that “in agriculture, women have long been referred to as the invisible unpaid workforce on farms”. “There is plenty of evidence to back this up”.

Females’ contribution to agriculture

NUIG research, in recent years, indicated that women are the sole owners of just 10% of all farmland in Ireland. She highlighted that most of these women own the land through marital transfer rather than succession or inheritance.

The minister stressed that only 4% of farms registered with the DAFM are in joint male and female names.

“We know that one-quarter of our farms’ workforce is women. These figures do not tally well for equality. No other occupation has such an imbalance in property ownership,” she added.

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“As rural women, we are not a homogenous group. I have been unfailingly inspired by so many rural women I have met. Indeed, there are many in this chamber.”

Drive, determination, and resilience

“As Minister of State at the DAFM, I have had the privilege to visit farms and rural enterprises throughout the country.”

She said she has been lucky enough to encounter many women with unrelenting drive, determination, and resilience to be innovative and industrious, diversify, and drive on after personal trauma and difficult times.

“These are daughters and sisters, widows and mothers who all striving to provide for themselves and their families in sometimes very remote rural areas.”

She said Ireland would require “every ounce” of that determination and innovation to tackle the “huge” climate and biodiversity crisis.

“It is vital that we as a country continue to deliver on the sustainable development goal of gender equality with every pillar of society supporting the others. We expect it from other countries; why not of ourselves?”

Challenging prevailing culture

“With each new land registration, herd number or farm payment in a woman’s name, each new qualification she gains, each new female successor named, each business sale she makes or each rural TikTok video she posts, rural women are challenging prevailing culture.”

“They are challenging the future face of Ireland’s rural enterprises. I honour them all for their part in ensuring our young girls know of the possibilities open for them. They have to see it to be it.”

“To rural men, we need your support in this too. I ask the farmers of Ireland why their daughters are not their successors. What can we as policymakers do to help? How do we address that cultural bias that exists?”

Lastly, she said Ireland needs to keep young women in rural communities and arming is as “good a way as any of doing this”.

“Finally, to all my rural female colleagues and friends, let us enjoy our day on International Day of Rural Women and be sure to pause and admire the beauty of rural Ireland and celebrate our part within it,” she concluded.

See our women in ag series.

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