Over half of all students at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) are female, according to figures revealed by Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots.

“Evidence of the growing trend of female participation in the agriculture sector is reflected in the number of young women who are undertaking professional qualifications at CAFRE,” he said.

In 2017, the proportion of females enrolled in CAFRE courses was 30.5%, but this has increased steadily in recent years and equates to 53% at present.

In courses specifically relating to agriculture, 28% of students are female, which compares to 19% in 2017. In particular, the BSc honours degree in agricultural technology has seen female participation rise from 32% to 53% over the same period.

“These figures are very welcome. It shows us growing and active engagement of young women in the agriculture sector in NI,” Minister Poots said during a UFU women in agriculture event.

In her address at the online meeting last week, local equine vet and sheep farmer Esther Skelly-Smith urged more women to get involved in the UFU.

“Across UFU overarching committees and policy committees, only 11% are females. That number is too small in my opinion. We have a duty to keep looking at the vital role that women have in agriculture,” she said.