Climate Health Medical

Women farmers’ inequalities on the rise as global hunger intensifies

Women farmers’ inequalities on the rise as global hunger intensifies

HQ Team

April 14, 2023: Women, who account for one-third of those employed in the agricultural sector, are paid about 20% less than their male counterparts globally, according to an FAO report.

The report, which comes after more than a decade after the last one, stated that inequalities such as limited access to knowledge and resources and a higher unpaid care burden account for a 24% gap in productivity between men and women farmers on farms of equal size.

Women are also employed in producing food and non-food agricultural products and related activities from food storage, transportation and processing to distribution.

“If we tackle the gender inequalities endemic in agri-food systems and empower women, the world will leap forward in addressing the goals of ending poverty and creating a world free from hunger”, said Food and Agriculture Organizations’ Director-General Qu Dongyu.

The UN’s World Food Programme estimates that more than 345 million people worldwide face crisis levels of food insecurity this year, an increase of almost 200 million since early 2020.

Of these, 43 million are one step away from famine.

$1 trillion to global GDP

Closing the gender gap in farm productivity and the wage gap in agricultural employment would “increase global gross domestic product by nearly $1 trillion and reduce the number of food-insecure people by 45 million” during growing global hunger.

The UN food agency stated, “challenges to women’s full and equal employment in agri-food systems hold back their productivity and sustain wage gaps.”

“In many countries, there still is much to do to ensure that women own land in equal proportion to men and that legal frameworks protect their rights,” according to the report.

Women’s access to land, services, credit and digital technology lags behind men’s, while a higher burden of unpaid care limits their education, training and employment opportunities. 

The UN body stated that discriminatory social norms reinforce gender barriers to knowledge, resources and social networks —holding women back from making an equal contribution in the agri-food sector.

The slow pace of change regarding women farmers’ access to livestock ownership and essentials such as irrigation and fertilizers is “alarming,” the authors wrote in the report.

Women’s working conditions

In agri-food systems, “women’s roles tend to be marginalized, and their working conditions are likely worse than men’s –irregular, informal, part-time, low-skilled, or labour-intensive”.

Agricultural projects which specifically empower women have broad economic and social benefits, according to the ‘The status of women in agri-food systems’ report.

“If half of the small-scale producers benefited from development interventions that focused on empowering women, it would significantly raise the incomes of an additional 58 million people and increase the resilience of an additional 235 million.”

The scale of women’s employment in agri-food systems in some developing countries points to the potential impact that equality-boosting interventions could have. In southern Asia, 71% of all working women are employed versus 47% of men.

Monitoring and accelerating progress on gender equality in agri-food systems hinge on “the collection and use of high-quality data, disaggregated by sex, age and other forms of social and economic differentiation”, which is currently lacking, as well as rigorous gender research.

The report urged urgent action to “close gaps related to access to assets, technology and resources”. 

Unpaid domestic work

Women’s productivity in the agri-food sector requires interventions that “address care and unpaid domestic work burdens, provide education and training and strengthen land-tenure security.”

Social protection programmes that “have shown to increase women’s employment and resilience” are the need of the hour.

“When economies shrink, women’s jobs go first”, as has been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report.

“Women have always worked in agri-food systems. It is time that we made agri-food systems work for women”, Mr Qu wrote in his foreword to the report.

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