Robynne Anderson's Emerging Thoughts on Ag

Archived Posts

Status of Women in Agrifood Systems

Status of Women in Agrifood Systems

Women empowerment is key to closing the gender gap.

“Closing the gender gap could see a one-off global GDP increase of nearly 1 trillion US dollars – which means 1% of global GDP – and the number of food insecure people could be reduced by 45 million.’’

FAO Director General QU Dongyu

If we are serious about food systems transformation and realizing food and nutrition security, then we really need to pay attention to what data is saying.  FAO Director General QU Dongyu launched the Status of Women in Agrifood Systems report. The findings continue to give the same message; food security, food systems transformation, social and economic progress will not be realized if women are left behind!

In numbers

Progress in closing the gender gap remains slow and, worse, the past few years have brought more significant blows to the women in the agrifood sector.  While agrifood systems are a more important source of livelihood for women than for men in many countries, the report indicates that:

  • The gender gap in land productivity between female- and male-managed farms of the same size is 24%.
  • Women engaged in wage employment in agriculture earn 82 cents for every dollar that men earn.
  • Between 2017 and 2021, the gender gap in women’s access to mobile internet in low- and middle-income countries narrowed from 25% to 16%.
  • While 75% of policy documents relating to agriculture and rural development from 68 countries recognize women’s roles and/or women’s challenges in agriculture and rural development, only 19% included policy goals related to gender.
  • The gap in food insecurity between men and women widened from 1.7 percentage points in 2019 to 4.3 percentage points in 2021.
  • Globally, 22% of women lost their jobs in the off-farm segment of agrifood systems in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with only 2% of men.

Women empowerment is key to food security

The report underscores the need to increase women’s empowerment which is essential for women’s well-being and has a positive impact on agricultural production, food security, diets and child nutrition. Moving forward, there are great examples of what is working to close the gender gap. But we need to accelerate action so that these are scaled. The report notes that more work needs to be done to:

  • Develop gender-transformative approaches which show promise in changing social norms, are cost-effective and have high returns.
  • Strengthen interventions that address care and unpaid domestic work burdens, education and training, access to technology, resources, and childcare.
  • Implement reforms to close gaps in landownership and secure tenure.
  • Design extension services and resources such as technologies with women’s needs in mind. Digital tools and ICT have potential to close multiple gaps.
  • Enhance group-based approaches to increase women’s empowerment and resilience to shocks and stressors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
  • Invest in social protection programmes which increase women’s employment and enhance their resilience.

Private sector taking action forward

I am glad to report that these pathways echo what has been the private sector position on gender. Most of these are reflected in the draft CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment. The private sector has been part of the process of developing these guidelines and we look forward to the successful conclusion of this process and adoption at CFS 51. There is no doubt the outcome of this process will be crucial to scaling up efforts by various actors, including the private sector. The private sector will continue to provide its support and work on the ground to advance gender equality.

Private sector is also keen on partnerships and is joining FAO in its commitment to further increase its work on gender equality and women’s empowerment. We are just concluding a FAO-IAFN jointly-led Accelerator Mentorship programme for women-led SMEs in Africa. The overwhelming response to the program shows how business mentorship can contribute to socio-economic empowerment of women. We received more than 500 applications for 50 slots! The need is immense, and we are seeking more partners to ensure as many women as they need this help can get it.

The Future is Bright for the Agriculture and Food Sector

The Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC) in Vancouver in 2023 showed the future is looking bright for the agriculture and food sector. This year’s crop of scholars came from all over the world and were working on projects as diverse as wildlife conservation, conflict resolution, media engagement, reducing greenhouse gases, and improving biodiversity.

As I spoke with these talented individuals, one thing that struck me was their humility. Despite being international scholarship winners, they were still eager to learn and grow. It was a unique perspective on rural life that I think is often overlooked. People from rural communities may assume that their opinions are not important in the wider world, but in fact, they bring a technical understanding of how to do things right from the field.

I encouraged these young scholars to have confidence in their expertise and to speak up about the issues that matter to them. Their voices are incredibly important, and we need their perspectives to shape the future of agriculture and food. The Nuffield program provides an excellent opportunity for emerging leaders in agriculture to tour the world, see different perspectives, and prepare a paper on their experiences.

The Nuffield family is truly a family. The program fosters a sense of community and support that extends far beyond the scholarship period. The scholars I spoke with were enthusiastic about staying connected with their contemporaries and mentors and continuing to collaborate on future projects. They are eager to tackle the challenges facing agriculture and food and to do so in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and just.

The conference was not just an opportunity to meet the next generation of agricultural leaders but also to draw inspiration from them. Their passion, commitment, and humility were inspiring, and I am excited to see what the future holds for them and the agriculture and food sector as a whole. It is an annual event that brings together a group of emerging agricultural leaders from around the world to exchange ideas, discuss challenges facing the agriculture industry, and develop strategies for the future.

The conference is hosted by Nuffield International, a non-profit organization that aims to promote agricultural development and leadership through education and research. Each year, Nuffield selects a group of scholars from different countries to participate in the conference.

Consider applying for this opportunity, supporting a scholar, or meeting them as they travel with world.

Letting Farmers Lead

I recently came across a great news article and an excellent example of how the agri-food sector is working together to reduce the carbon footprint of our food. Food companies have a lot to gain by directly working with farmers to address greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More

CFS50 Registration is Open!

Registration is now open for the 50th session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)! This hybrid event will take place 10 – 13 October, with the in-person portion taking place at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarters in Rome, Italy. This will be the first in-person CFS since 2019.

Discussions at the CFS50 plenary session will focus on the 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report and responses to the global food crisis, endorsement of the Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment, endorsement of policy recommendations on Promoting Youth Engagement and Employment in Agriculture and Food Systems, review of the CFS Multi-Year Programme of Work including selection of a theme for the 2024 report of the CFS High-Level Panel of Experts, launching of a policy process on Data Collection and Analysis Tools, and monitoring of the CFS Principles for Responsible Investments in Agriculture and Food Systems. The CFS 50 Provisional Agenda is available here.

Read More

Science in Soil

Canadian farmers have long been making significant commitments to soil carbon sequestration. A recent report by the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) demonstrates that the Canadian agriculture sector can be a source of solutions to climate change. It shows we need a science policy interface that is working effectively to enhance carbon sequestration in croplands.

Read More

Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Privacy Policy
Close and Accept
Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: Privacy Policy
Close and Accept