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Tackling agri-food inequality can improve bottom lines – Global Issues


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Addressing gender inequalities in agri-food systems and empowering women would not only reduce hunger and build resilience, but also boost the global economy. Credit: Jency Samuel/IPS
  • by Paul Virginie (Rome)
  • Inter Press Service

Such objections, which strangely do not seem to apply to issues such as government subsidies for fossil fuels or corporate tax breaks, are mostly false because they do not take into account the cost of a range of what Economists call “externalities” the negative impact the current way of doing things has on the climate, the environment, quality of life, human health, etc.

But perhaps what’s even worse is that these arguments often make no sense, even if one focuses only on the “bottom line.”

A recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on the status of women in agri-food systems shows that the food sector is a good example.

The report goes beyond agriculture to provide a comprehensive picture of the condition of women working in agri-food systems – from food production to distribution and consumption.

It demonstrates that addressing gender inequalities in agri-food systems and empowering women would not only reduce hunger and build resilience to the effects of climate change and shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to stimulate the global economy.

The study explains that closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity and the wage gap in agricultural employment would increase global gross domestic product by almost $1 trillion.

It would also reduce the number of food insecure people worldwide by 45 million.

Additionally, if half of smallholder producers benefited from development interventions focused on women’s empowerment, it would significantly increase the incomes of an additional 58 million people and increase the resilience of an additional 235 million people, the report said.

“Addressing gender inequalities in agri-food systems and empowering women is essential to achieving the global goals of reducing poverty and ending hunger,” Lauren Phillips, Deputy Director of the Division of Rural Transformation Inclusive and Gender Equality (ESP) at FAO and one of the authors of the report. authors, told IPS.

“As our report highlights, the benefits of creating opportunities for women in agri-food systems are enormous and can improve the food security, well-being, economic growth and resilience of entire communities, particularly in rural areas. .

“By adopting policies, programs and investments intentionally designed to empower women and close the gaps they face in access to resources and assets, we would be one step closer to fairer, more resilient agri-food systems and more sustainable.

The report details the many ways in which women working in agri-food systems are often mistreated.

Inequalities in agri-food systems hold women back at all levels, he says.

The report states that women’s roles tend to be marginalized and their working conditions are often worse than those of men, as they are often irregular, informal, part-time, low-skilled or labor-intensive. artwork.

It states that women engaged in wage employment in agriculture earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Women also benefit from less secure land tenure, less access to credit and training, and must work with technologies designed for men.

Alongside discrimination, these inequalities create a productivity gap of 24% between women and men on farms of equal size.

The report also says that when economies contract, women’s jobs come first. It says 22% of women working in the “off-farm” segments of agri-food systems lost their jobs during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 2% of men.

The study confirms that women are more vulnerable to climate shocks and natural disasters, as resource constraints and discriminatory gender norms can make it harder for them to adapt.

For example, women’s workload, including hours worked in agriculture, tends to decrease less than men’s during climatic shocks such as heat stress.

The report says progress in closing most gender gaps has stagnated or reversed since the last similar FAO study was published in 2010.

It argues that gender inequality in agri-food systems persists in part because discriminatory policies, institutions and social norms still limit equal opportunities and equal rights to resources.

The study shows that interventions to improve women’s productivity succeed when they address care and unpaid domestic labor burdens, provide education and training, and strengthen land tenure security.

Access to childcare also has a significant positive effect on mothers’ employment.

Phillips says there are many examples of how projects targeting working women, 36% of whom are employed in global agri-food systems compared to 38% of working men, generate greater benefits than those that integrate simply the genre.

One of these is the Joint Program “Accelerating Progress towards Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment” (JP RWEE), managed in partnership with FAO’s sister food agencies based in Rome, WFP and IFAD.

The program mobilized over $1.9 million through savings and loan programs and reached nearly 80,000 direct beneficiaries and over 400,000 indirect beneficiaries during the first phase of implementation between 2014 and 2021 in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Liberia, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda.

Among them, 40,000 people benefited from capacity building activities in agricultural production techniques and 20,000 people were trained using gender transformative approaches.

Among other results, the program generated an average increase of 82% in production for the rural women involved.

“Even though a lot of people told me I couldn’t do it, because technology is for men and not women, I knew I could do it,” said Marta Benavente, a trained solar engineer. by JP RWEE from Guatemala.

“JP RWEE taught me that women can do more than just household chores. And now my community knows it, and so do my daughters.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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