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Africa: Agriculture Gender Gap

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Mar 11, 2011 (110311)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or 100 to 150 million people. An estimated 925 million people in the world were undernourished in 2010, of which 906 million live in developing countries." - The State of Food and Agriculture, FAO, March 2011

The message is neither new nor surprising, as the potential for development in addressing the gender gap is recognized more and more widely. Nevertheless, implementation is another matter, as gender bias is deeply entrenched in both institutions and cultural norms. By stressing what it calls "the business case" for gender equity, and providing additional evidence for the benefits to be gained, the FAO's annual report on the State of Food and Agriculture hopes to give a boost towards higher priority for women's rights in national and international agricultural reforms.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release and excerpts from the FAO report. The full report is available at http://www.fao.org/publications/sofa/en/

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, sent out by e-mail and available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs11/rtf1103.php, addresses a more controversial issue, i.e., the need to give priority to agroecological perspectives in new investment in agriculture. The needs for emphasis on smallholder agriculture, on the role of women, and for more attention to agriculture in development planning more generally are widely recognized. But views on the priorities for investment are sharply divided, between those stressing technology most suited to profits for large-scale agriculture service companies and those stressing the need for agroecological approaches, which are more sustainable but less favored by leading multi-national corporations and large donors such as USAID and the Gates Foundation.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on agriculture and related issues, visit http://www.africafocus.org/agexp.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

Closing the gender gap in agriculture

FAO report makes strong business case for investing in women

http://www.fao.org

7 March 2011, Rome - If women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million, FAO said today in its 2010-11 edition of The State of Food and Agriculture report.

Yields on plots managed by women are lower than those managed by men, the report said. But this is not because women are worse farmers than men. They simply do not have the same access to inputs. If they did, their yields would go up, they would produce more and overall agricultural production would increase, the report said.

"The report makes a powerful business case for promoting gender equality in agriculture," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

"Gender equality is not just a lofty ideal, it is also crucial for agricultural development and food security. We must promote gender equality and empower women in agriculture to win, sustainably, the fight against hunger and extreme poverty," he added.

Closing yield gaps reaps gains for all

Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or 100 to 150 million people. An estimated 925 million people in the world were undernourished in 2010, of which 906 million live in developing countries.

"We must eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, ensure that access to resources is more equal and that agricultural policies and programmes are gender-aware, and make women's voices heard in decision-making at all levels. Women must be seen as equal partners in sustainable development," Diouf said.

Women's work

Women make up on average 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20% in Latin America to almost 50% in East and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The share is higher in some countries and varies greatly within countries.

Where rural women are employed, they tend to be segregated into lower paid occupations and are more likely to be in less secure forms of employment, such as seasonal, part-time or low-wage jobs.

New jobs in high-value export-oriented agro-industries offer better opportunities for women than traditional agriculture, the report says.

Mind the gap

The report documents gender gaps in the access to a wide range of agricultural resources, including land, livestock, farm labour, education, extension services, credit, fertilizers and mechanical equipment.

Women in all regions generally have less access to land than men. For those developing countries for which data are available, between 3 and 20 percent of all landholders are women. The share of women in the agricultural labour force is much higher and ranges from 20 to 50 percent in developing country regions.

"Women farmers typically achieve lower yields than men, not because they are less skilled, but because they operate smaller farms and use fewer inputs like fertilizers, improved seeds and tools," said Terri Raney, editor of the SOFA report.

Leveling the ploughing field

"Evidence from many countries shows that policies can promote gender equality and empower women in agriculture and rural employment. The first priority is to eliminate discrimination under the law," Raney said. "In many countries women do not have the same rights as men to buy, sell or inherit land, to open a savings account or borrow money, to sign a contract or sell their produce. Where legal rights exist on paper, they often are not honored in practice."

Government officials must be held accountable for upholding the law and women must be aware of their rights and empowered to claim them.

Women face multiple constraints in agriculture arising from the complex nature of agricultural production and from competing demands on their time. To be effective, interventions must be "bundled" so they treat these constraints together, the report says.

Policies and institutions often have different impacts on men and women - even when no explicit discrimination is intended. "Men and women have different roles in society and face different opportunities and constraints," said Raney. "We can't make good agricultural policy unless we consider gender differences."

Building human capital

In addition to increasing overall agricultural production, closing the gender gap in agriculture would also put more income in the hands of women - a proven strategy for improving health, nutrition and education outcomes for children.

"One of the best investments we can make is in building the human capital of women and girls - basic education, market information and agricultural extension services are essential building blocks for agricultural productivity and economic growth," Raney said.

In sub-Saharan Africa cultural norms have long encouraged women to be economically self-reliant and traditionally give women substantial responsibility for agricultural production. HIV/AIDS, conflict and migration have led to a rise in the female share of the agricultural labour force in some countries. The share of women in the agricultural labour force ranges from 36% in Cote d'Ivoire and Niger to over 60% in Lesotho.

The regional average for East and Southeast Asia is dominated by China where about 48% of the agricultural labour force is female.

In South Asia India dominates, with a female share in the agricultural labour force of 30 percent. In Pakistan the female share in the labour force has almost tripled since 1980, and in Bangladesh women now exceed 50% of the agricultural labour force.

In the Near East and North Africa the female share of the agricultural labour force has risen from 30% in 1980 to almost 45%.

In Latin America, overall female labour-force participation is high, but women's share of the agricultural workforce is lower than in other developing country regions, reflecting relatively high female education levels, economic growth and diversification and cultural norms that support female migration to service jobs in urban areas. Just over 20% of the agricultural labour force was female in 2010, slightly higher than in 1980.

Contact

Teresa Buerkle Media Relations (Washington, DC) (+1) 202 653 0011 (+1) 202 294 6665 teresamarie.buerkle@fao.org

Erwin Northoff Media Relations (Rome) (+39) 06 570 53105 (+39) 348 25 23 616 erwin.northoff@fao.org


The State of Food and Agriculture

Women in Agriculture

Closing the gender gap for development

...

This report documents the different roles played by women in rural areas of developing countries and provides solid empirical evidence on the gender gaps they face in agriculture and rural employment. Compared with their male counterparts, women:

  • operate smaller farms, on average only half to two-thirds as large;
  • keep fewer livestock, typically of smaller breeds, and earn less from the livestock they do own;
  • have a greater overall workload that includes a heavy burden of low-productivity activities like fetching water and firewood;
  • 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 employed, are more likely to be in part-time, seasonal and low-paying jobs; and
  • receive lower wages for the same work, even when they have the same experience and qualifications.

The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 presents empirical estimates of the potential gains that could be achieved by closing the gender gap in agriculture and rural employment. The report critically evaluates experiences from many countries with gender and development policies. It offers proven measures to promote gender equality and empower women. It shows how agricultural policies and programmes aimed at closing the gender gap can also generate significant gains for the agriculture sector, food security and society as a whole.

Key messages of the report

  • Women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. This average share ranges 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 less access than men to productive resources and opportunities. The gender gap is found for many assets, inputs and services and it imposes costs on the agriculture sector, the broader economy and society as well as on women themselves.
  • Female farmers produce less than male farmers, but not because they are less-efficient farmers - extensive empirical evidence shows that the productivity gap between male and female farmers is caused by differences in input use.
  • 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.
  • Production gains of this magnitude could 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.
  • These potential productivity gains are just the first round of social benefits that would come from closing the gender gap. When women control additional income, they spend more of it than men do on food, health, clothing and education for their children. This has positive implications for immediate well-being as well as long-run human capital formation and economic growth.
  • Policy interventions can help close the gender gap in agriculture and rural labour markets.

Priority areas for reform include:

  • eliminating discrimination against women in access to agricultural resources, education, extension and financial services, and labour markets;
  • investing in labour-saving and productivityenhancing 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.


Part I

1. The gender gap in agriculture

Agriculture is underperforming in many developing countries for a number of reasons. Among these is the fact that women lack the resources and opportunities they need to make the most productive use of their time. Women are farmers, workers and entrepreneurs, but almost everywhere they face more severe constraints than men in accessing productive resources, markets and services. This "gender gap" hinders their productivity and reduces their contributions to the agriculture sector and to the achievement of broader economic and social development goals. Closing the gender gap in agriculture would produce significant gains for society by increasing agricultural productivity, reducing poverty and hunger and promoting economic growth.

Governments, donors and development practitioners now recognize that agriculture is central to economic growth and food security - particularly in countries where a significant share of the population depends on the sector - but their commitment to gender equality in agriculture is less robust. Gender issues are now mentioned in most national and regional agricultural and food-security policy plans, but they are usually relegated to separate chapters on women rather than treated as an integral part of policy and programming. Many agricultural policy and project documents still fail to consider basic questions about the differences in the resources available to men and women, their roles and the constraints they face - and how these differences might be relevant to the proposed intervention.

As a result, it is often assumed that interventions in areas such as technology, infrastructure and market access have the same impacts on men and women, when in fact they may not.

...

While it seems obvious that closing the gender gap would be beneficial, evidence to substantiate this potential has been lacking. This edition of The State of Food and Agriculture has several goals: to bring the best available empirical evidence to bear on the contributions women make and the constraints they face in agricultural and rural enterprises in different regions of the world; to demonstrate how the gender gap limits agricultural productivity, economic development and human well-being; to evaluate critically interventions aimed at reducing the gender gap and to recommend practical steps that national governments and the international community can take to promote agricultural development by empowering women.

...

4. Gains from Closing the Gender Gap

Many studies show that yields on plots managed by women are lower than those managed by men. This is not because women are worse farmers than men. Indeed, extensive evidence shows that women are just as efficient as men. They simply do not have access to the same inputs. If they did, their yields would be the same as men's, they would produce more and overall agricultural production would increase.

The relationship between gender equality and agricultural productivity can be explored using OECD's index of Social Institutions and Gender Inequality (SIGI) (OECD, 2010). The SIGI index reflects social and legal norms such as property rights, marital practices and civil liberties that affect women's economic development. A lower SIGI indicates lower levels of genderbased discrimination. Countries with lower levels of gender inequality tend to achieve higher average cereal yields than countries with higher levels of inequality. Of course, the relationship shows only correlation, not causation, and the direction of causality could run in either direction (or in both directions). In other words, more equal societies tend to have more productive agriculture, but more productive agriculture can help reduce gender inequality.

Research surveyed below confirms that closing the gender gap in agriculture can improve agricultural productivity, with important additional benefits through raising the incomes of female farmers, increasing the availability of food and reducing food prices, and raising women's employment and real wages.

Productivity of male and female farmers

Many studies have attempted to assess whether female farmers are as productive as male farmers. These studies measure productivity in a variety of ways, but the most common method is based on output per hectare of land, or yield. Simply comparing yields on men's and women's farms can reveal differences between the two groups - women typically achieve lower yields than men do - but it does not explain why. The most thorough studies also attempt to assess whether these differences are caused by difference in input use, such as improved seeds, fertilizers and tools, or other factors such as access to extension services and education. The vast majority of this literature confirms that women are just as efficient as men and would achieve the same yields if they had equal access to productive resources and services.

A thorough literature search identified 27 studies that compare the productivity of male and female farmers. These studies covered a wide range of countries (primarily, but not only, in Africa), crops, time periods and farming systems, and used various measures of productivity and efficiency. Despite this variety, most found that male farmers achieved higher yields than female farmers. The estimated yield gaps ranged widely but many clustered around 20-30 percent, with an average of 25 percent.

Most of the studies found that differences in yields were attributable to differences in input levels, suggesting that reallocating inputs from male to female plots can increase overall household output. Several studies showed this explicitly. Because this literature is complex and somewhat contentious, it is summarized below.

[see full text available at
http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i2050e/i2050e00.htm

...

Production gains from closing the gender gap

If gender-specific differences in input use could be overcome and female farmers could achieve the same yields as male farmers, the evidence suggests that the production gains could be substantial. The potential gains cannot be calculated precisely because the necessary data are not available; however, a reasonable range can be estimated based on the yield gaps identified in the studies discussed above and the amount of farm land that women manage.

As noted above, studies of the yield gap between male and female farmers provide estimates averaging 20-30 percent, and most attribute the difference to lower levels of input use. ...

Closing the input gap on the agricultural land held by women could increase yields on their land to the levels achieved by men. This would imply an increase in production of 20-30 percent on their land, and increases at the national level proportionate to the amount of land controlled by women. This would increase agricultural output in the developing countries for which data are available by an average of 2.5-4 percent. Assuming that the input and yield gaps are representative of other developing countries, this would imply global gains of a similar magnitude.

Of course, the potential production gains calculated by this method are based on the existing distribution of land and a stylized yield gap of 20-30 percent. This implies that countries where women control proportionately more land could achieve the greatest potential gains. It may be the case, however, that the overall gender gap in access to agricultural resources is, in fact, wider where women control less land. The actual gains from closing the gender gap in access to resources would be greater in countries where the gender gap is wider. Increasing women's access to land as well as complementary inputs in that case would generate broader socio-economic benefits than those captured by this analysis.

...

Other social and economic benefits of closing the gender gap

In addition to increases in production and income, closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate broader social and economic benefits by strengthening women's direct access to, and control over, resources and incomes. Evidence from Africa, Asia and Latin America consistently shows that families benefit when women have greater status and power within the household. Increased control over income gives women a stronger bargaining position over economic decisions regarding consumption, investment and production. When women have more influence over economic decisions, their families allocate more income to food, health, education, children's clothing and children's nutrition. Social safety-net programmes in many countries now target women specifically for these reasons (Box 8).

A large number of studies have linked women's income and greater bargaining power within the family to improved child nutritional status, which in turn influences health outcomes and educational attainment (Smith et al., 2003).

...

Improved gender equality in access to opportunities and returns to assets not only improve nutrition, health and education outcomes, but can also have a long-lasting impact on economic growth by raising the level of human capital in society.

Closing the gender gap spurs economic development, largely through the impact of female education on fertility, child mortality and the creation of human capital in the next generation.

...

Key messages

  • Female farmers are just as efficient as male farmers but they produce less because they control less land, use fewer inputs and have less access to important services such as extension advice.
  • Closing the gender gap in access and use of productive resources and services would unlock the productivity potential of women and could increase output substantially. Closing the gap could increase agricultural output in the developing world by 2.5-4 percent, on average, with higher gains in countries where women are more involved in agriculture and the gender gap is wider.
  • Increasing agricultural production by this magnitude could reduce the number of undernourished people by 12-17 percent, and would imply significant progress towards achieving MDG 1C. This highlights the synergies that exist between promoting gender equality and reducing extreme poverty and hunger.
  • When women control additional income, they spend more of it than men do on food, health, clothing and education for their children. This has positive implications for immediate well-being as well as long-run human capital formation and economic growth through improved health, nutrition and education outcomes.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin, or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org


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