Gender in Agriculture Partnership

Transforming agriculture to empower women and deliver food, nutrition and income security

State of Food and Agriculture - Women in agriculture: closing the gender gap for development

The agriculture sector is underperforming in many developing countries, and one of the key reasons is that women do not have equal access to the resources and opportunities they need to be more productive. This report clearly confirms that the Millennium Development Goals on gender equality (MDG 3) and poverty and food security (MDG 1) are mutually reinforcing. We must promote gender equality and empower women in agriculture to win, sustainably, the fight against hunger and extreme poverty.

Women make crucial contributions in agriculture and rural enterprises in all developing country regions, as farmers, workers and entrepreneurs. Their roles vary across regions but, everywhere, women face gender-specific constraints that reduce their productivity and limit their contributions to agricultural production, economic growth and the well-being of their families, communities and countries.

The obstacles that confront women farmers mean that they achieve lower yields than their male counterparts. Yet women are as good at farming as men. Solid empirical evidence shows that if women farmers used the same level of resources as men on the land they farm, they would achieve the same yield levels. The yield gap between men and women averages around 20–30 percent, and most research finds that the gap is due to differences in resource use. Bringing yields on the land farmed by women up to the levels achieved by men would increase agricultural output in developing countries between 2.5 and 4 percent. Increasing production by this amount could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world in the order of 12–17 percent. According to FAO’s latest estimates, 925 million people are currently undernourished. Closing the gender gap in agricultural yields could bring that number down by as much as 100–150 million people.

Key Messages of the Report:

• Women make essential contributions to agriculture in developing countries, but their roles differ significantly by region and are changing rapidly in some areas. Women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent 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 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, inputs and services – land, livestock, labour, education, extension and financial services, and technology – and it imposes costs on the agriculture sector, the broader economy and society as well as on women themselves.
• Closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains for the agriculture sector and for society.
If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17 percent.
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 how wide a gender gap they face. resources, education, extension and financial services, and labour markets; - investing in labour-saving and productivity-enhancing technologies and infrastructure to free women’s time for more productive activities;
• Policy interventions can help close the gender gap in agriculture and rural labour and markets. Priority areas for reform include: - eliminating discrimination against women in access to agricultural - facilitating the participation of women in flexible, efficient and fair rural labour markets.


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