Bridging the Gender Gap in Agriculture
By admin July 13, 2016

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Land ownership and involvement in the agricultural systems exemplify the significant gender gaps and inequalities that exist today. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that if women were given access to the same resources as well, yields could rise by 20-30 percent and country agricultural output could rise by 2.5-4 percent, resulting in lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger. Averaged around the world, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force, but only represent 5-30 percent of all agricultural landowners in lower income regions. Thus, there is a lot of room for economic, social and political growth by integrating women in the agricultural systems.

Where men might be traditionally regarded as the major driver in the agricultural system, performing the bulk of physical labor, women traditionally play the role of “seed saver” or manager in the household over several generations. The separation of responsibilities by gender has given men and women distinct sets of knowledge, experience and priorities about the agricultural system. Women’s roles as “seed saver” and “house manager” has given them very particular knowledge about a variety plants and agricultural techniques. Utilizing the diversity of knowledge available from women is a necessary step in adopting the environmental and climate adaptation strategies vital for sustainable development. However, merely allowing them to voice what they know is only the beginning. Women will need equal access with men to starting inputs, such as credit, extension training and new agricultural technology.

Women’s perspectives and priorities in agriculture can also lead to an indirect benefit to economic, environmental and social ecosystems in general by raising communal income, decreasing land degradation and enhancing food security and household health. For instance, women are generally more concerned with the dietary diversity of their children while men are interested in a small number of cash crops. Embracing crop diversity has not only been shown to reduce malnutrition by increasing availability of nutritious food. Integrated crop, livestock and aquaculture systems has also shown to reduce overuse of a single resource that might otherwise lead to environmental exhaustion such as land degradation. This means that agricultural production in a single plot of land can be sustainable. Preserving natural resources while diversifying livelihoods will also lead to a more secure and steady stream of income by decreasing dependence on one crop. Moreover, preventing land exhaustion can lead to stability within the home as families will not migrate in response to depleted lands.

The core of gender disparity in agriculture is that women are overlooked in decision-making processes that allow access to and use of land, land rights and biodiversity resources. Thus, the support of male champions to women’s right will be crucial for moving forward. Even if women are able to own land, reports found that productivity on women’s farms was significantly lower per hectare in comparison to men. In order to narrow this gender gap, women will need strengthened women’s land rights, improved access to hired labor, creation of community-based child care centers, and increase access to inputs and networks.

For more information:

Integrating Gender in Ecosystems Management

Mind the gap: closing gender divide in African agriculture could reduce hunger

Feed the Future: Women and Agriculture – Improving Global Food Security

Women, Food Security and Agriculture in a Global Marketplace

AfDB unveils plan to empower African Women in Agriculture

Burundi: embracing integration, sustainability and efficiency

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