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The State of Food and Agriculture 2010–2011: Women in Agriculture. Closing the Gender Gap for Development

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Women account for a high proportion of farmers in many developing countries yet often have very little access to the resources they need to support their livelihoods, including land, livestock, technology, farm labour, extension services, financial services and education. This can significantly affect women’s ability to adapt to new agricultural conditions in the face of climate change. This report explores these gender inequalities in the agricultural sector. Drawing on recent research, it argues that women farmers’ average crop yields are around 20–30 per cent lower than those of their male counterparts, largely due to differences in the use of productive resources. The authors suggest that by closing this gender gap, not only would global agricultural production increase by up to 4 per cent, but it could also have marked social and economic benefits for women and the communities they live in. The report presents comparative gender-disaggregated agricultural data from countries in South America, Africa and Asia, arguing that the significant differences in access and availability of resources between men and women closely correlate with the differences in yields.The first part of the report seeks to show the current status of women in agriculture across the majordeveloping regions and analyses the extent of the gender gap. It looks at gender, food and agriculture at aglobal level, assessing such trends as consumption, production, undernourishment and price volatility.The second part of the report outlines the major challenges facing the global food system today. In doing so, it explicitly shows the urgency of the situation: greater price volatility, unacceptable levels of food insecurity and a desperate need for greater investment in women farmers.The report suggests that closing the gender gap in agriculture and increasing women’s access to agricultural resources would generate significant gains for the agriculture sector and for society, raising total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 per cent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17 per cent. Recommendations include:

eliminating discrimination against women in access to agricultural 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; and
facilitating the participation of women in flexible, efficient and fair rural labour markets.

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