Narrowing the Gender Gap in Agriculture
By admin February 16, 2017

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Agriculture is an important source of livelihood for millions of people across the world. It contributes to economic growth, provides employment, generates trade revenues for many export-oriented countries and, more importantly, large segments of the poorest populations who reside in rural areas and make a living off agriculture to escape poverty.

From land to sea, among millions of those in the agricultural sector, women comprise about 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. Women play a major role by performing various responsibilities. They work together with men in producing agricultural crops, tending animals, engaging in trade and marketing, and taking care of family members. Women’s participation in rural labor markets varies considerably across regions and activities, but invariably they have less access than men to productive resources and opportunities. According to a report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), such “gender gap” exists in access to land, livestock, education, financial services, technology, among others. Women are also over represented in unpaid and part-time work, and evidence suggests that women are often paid less than men for the same work. Along with these problems, women are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change including droughts, flood, and irregular rainfall.

The lack of appreciation of women’s role in agriculture reduces their contribution to agricultural productivity and the broader social and economic development. Closing the gender gap in agriculture is significant to improve productivity and reduce poverty worldwide. The FAO estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent. The increase in total agricultural output in developing countries could reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17 percent.

Realizing the importance of women’s role in agriculture, various development projects aim to eliminate discrimination against women in access to resources and facilitate women’s participation in rural labor markets. In the Caribbean, supported by UN Women and the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), women learn to use more sustainable farming techniques through workshops on green economy and sustainability. In Rwanda, female farmers can access markets and better forecast production through a mobile-enabled platform. In Pakistan, over a thousand landless women now have tenancy rights to land by reaching an agreement with male landlords. Women experience barriers in almost every aspect of work. It requires concerted efforts from multiple development actors to narrow the gender gap. Sound government policy, public-private partnership, as well as active and open civil society all play an important role.

In a statement for International Rural Women’s Day, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed the importance of empowering rural women farmers as agents of change for transforming food production and consumption. “To make significant progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries must integrate climate change concerns in their food and agricultural development plans and invest in solutions that support gender equality.” And with concerted efforts by the international community to address and rectify the gap, sowing the seeds of gender equality today hopefully will lead to fruitful outcomes for women worldwide tomorrow.

Read more:

Empowering rural women, ensuring food security and ending poverty

FAO: The role of women in agriculture

Sustainable farming reaping benefits for women in Cameroon

Help Women Farmers ‘Get to Equal’


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