Women in Agriculture

The need to close the gender gap for development
By Gloria Iribagiza

Women make essential contributions to agriculture in developing countries, but their role differs significantly by region and is changing rapidly in some areas, says a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Key findings in ‘The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011’ report indicate that, women comprise on average, 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20 per cent in Latin America to 50 per cent in Eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Their contribution to agricultural work varies even more widely depending on the specific crop and activity.

Women in Agriculture and in rural areas have one thing in common across regions: they have less access than men to productive resources and opportunities. The gender gap is found for many assets, in puts and services—land, livestock, labour, education, extension and financial services and technology—and it imposes costs on the education sector, the broader economy and society as well as on women themselves.

Therefore, closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains for the agricultural sector and for society. If women had access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent which could raise total agricultural output in the developing world by 2.5 to 4 percent and this would reduce hunger in the world by 12 to 17 per cent.

The potential gains would vary by region depending on how many women are currently engaged in agriculture, how much production or land they control, and much wide a gender gap they face. Additionally, closing the gender gap in agricultural inputs alone could lift 100 to150 million people out of hunger.

Research findings by FAO in the ‘Women in Agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development’, further states that, even though, no blueprint exists for closing the gender gap, some basic principles are universal: governments, the inter- national community and civil society should work together to eliminate discrimination under the law, to promote equal access to resources and opportunities, to ensure that agricultural policies and programmes are gender-aware, and to make women’s voices heard as equal partners for sustainable development.

Conclusively, achieving gender equality and empowering women in agriculture is not only the right thing to do—it is also crucial for agricultural development and food security.

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