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Women in agriculture: closing the gender gap

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1 Women in agriculture: closing the gender gap
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Rome, 10 October 2013

2 Gender roles for better food security and nutrition
Women make essential contributions to food production, processing, marketing and retailing. They contribute as farmers, workers, entrepreneurs, and agents of change Women traditionally bear the primary responsibility for preparing meals and caring for children and other family members. They provide the bulk of care work in rural areas, often without pay Women make essential contributions to the rural economy of all developing country regions. But women face a serious gender gap in access to productive resources. The gender gap is manifest in other ways. Gender relations are social phenomena and it is impossible to separate women’s economic spheres from their household activities. Women are often responsible for preparing food, childcare, and collecting firewood and water and these are time-consuming and binding constraints that must also be addressed. Why is gender gap important: Access to food can be achieved through: • own production, for those who have access to land and productive resources • employment and self-employment, generating income and thus allowing purchase of food; and • social transfers—including food-for-work or cash-for-work programs, and cash transfers—or other forms of solidarity within households or communities.

3 Female share of the agricultural labour force
On average women comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. They work as own-account farmers, unpaid workers on family farms, and paid or unpaid labourers on other farms. In most regions women are more likely to be employed in agriculture as compared to men. Women have primary responsibilities for household and child-rearing activities in most societies, although norms differ by culture and are changing over time. Time-use surveys across a wide range of countries estimate that women provide percent of the time spent on household food preparation and that they are also usually responsible for child care and other household chores. Key point: women face multiple trade-offs in the allocation of their time that directly impinge on their own and their children’s health and nutritional status. It is now recognized that the first 1000 days (from conception) are critical for adequate child growth and cognitive development. Despite their contribution to agriculture and to household food security and nutrition: There are major inequalities between women and men in access to assets, productive resources and opportunities Source. FAOSTAT. Note: The agricultural labour force includes people who are working or looking for work in formal or informal jobs and in paid and or unpaid employment in agriculture. That includes self-employed women as well as women working on family farms. It does not include domestic chores such as fetching water and firewood, preparing food and caring for children and other family members.

4 Fewer women are land holders
The figure is based on the FAO Gender and Land Rights Database and shows the proportion of male and female “agricultural holders”. The figure shows start gender disparities in land holdings across all regions. Women represent dewer than 5 percent of all agricultural holders in the countries in North Africa and West Asia for which data are available. In sub-Saharan Africa the figure is 15 percent but there are wide variations among countries (5% in Mali to 30% in Botswana, Cape Verse and Malawi). Land is the most important asset for households that depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Access to and control over land is synonymous with wealth, status and power in many areas. Strengthening women’s access to, and control over, land is an important means of raising their status and influence within households and communities.

5 And women typically operate smaller farms...
Milk This figure shows data from the Rural Income Generating Activities (RIGA) project of FAO. Women typically operate smaller farms than men. They have smaller plots of land, often of inferior quality, and typically with less secure tenure. Key message: This means that women cannot achieve the same scale of production as men and have less incentive to invest in soil fertility, so efficiency suffers. The RIGA evidence that women operate smaller plots, of lower quality and less secure tenure is also confirmed by findings from many other studies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America as documented in SOFA.

6 and use less fertilizer.
In addition, women are much less likely than men to use improved technologies and purchased inputs like fertilizers and seeds. This figure shows the RIGA data for fertilizer use. Every country in the database shows that women are less likely than men to use fertilizers, and the gap is sometimes very wide. Similar pattern exist for other inputs. The use of purchased inputs depends on the availability of complementary assets such as land, credit, education and labor, all of which tend to be more constrained for female-headed than for male-headed households. In Ghana, for example, only 39% of female farmers adopted improved crop varieties, compared with 59% of male farmers because they had less access to land (wealth), family labor and extension.

7 Gender gaps in productivity disappear when access to productive inputs is equalized
Many studies (we found 27 for SOFA ) conducted around the world in recent decades confirm that women farmers typically achieve lower yields than men. For the reasons highlighted: operate smaller farms, on average only half to two-thirds as large; • have a greater overall workload that includes a heavy burden; • have less education and less access to agricultural information and extension services; • use less credit and other financial services; • are much less likely to purchase inputs such as fertilizers, improved seeds and mechanical equipment; If female farmers had same access to fertilizers and other inputs as male farmers, yields would increase by 14% in Malawi, 17% in Ghana, 20 percent in Kenya, 21% in Benin. Source: WDR 2012

8 Gains from closing the gender gap for women farmers
When women have the same access to assets, productive resources, and opportunities, as men, the productivity gaps reduce Broader social and economic benefits include: Women’s income and bargaining power within the family is linked to improved health, nutrition and education outcomes for children. Improved gender equality has a long lasting impact on economic growth by raising human capital in society. Gender roles for better food security and nutritional outcomes Agricultural production and food processing are the main sources of employment for women in most developing regions, yet women typically control fewer resources and earn lower incomes than men, so closing the gender gap in agriculture could produce significant nutritional gains for society. Within the food system, gender roles are directly relevant for child and maternal malnutrition. Increasing women’s control over resources and incomes benefits their children’s health, nutrition and education, as well as their own health and nutrition.

9 Policies can make a difference
Be aware that policies and institutions affect men and women differently Provide rural services and technologies to free-up women’s time Improve market access and putting income in women’s hands Provide nutrition education and building on women’s knowledge Food system interventions must consider women’s and men’s differentiated needs, opportunities and constraints Policies, interventions and investment in labour-saving farming technologies and rural infrastructure, targeted safety nets and services can make important contributions to the health and nutritional outcomes of women, infants and young children. The first 1000 days are crucial. Time and nutrition knowledge of mothers are crucial – because they are the main care givers. Technologies that enhance labour productivity or reduce time burden of rural women can free their time for other activities, such as food preparation and child caring. Nutrition knowledge can enhance hygiene, prenatal and post natal care, knowledge of appropriate types of complementary foods, knowledge of preparation, storage and feeding practices. Nutrition education proven way of enhancing nutrition, especially when promoted in conjunction with other interventions to improve access to diverse and nutritious food. Evidence also shows that households knowledgeable about nutrition try to protect consumption of micronutrient-rich foods (during times of crisis). Food system interventions, such as home gardens or integrated farming, which are aimed at enhancing availability and diversity must be sensitive to women’s time constraints (and must also contain a nutrition knowledge component).

10 Susan Kaaria, Senior Officer,
Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division

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