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FAO Report Says Reducing Gender Gap In Agriculture Could Help Increase Food Supplies Worldwide

Increasing women’s access to land, technology and other agricultural resources could significantly reduce the number of hungry people worldwide, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday in a report, the Associated Press/FoxNews.com reports.

“The report says giving women the same tools and resources as men could increase agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent. This could in turn reduce the number of hungry people by 12 to 17 percent, or by 100 to 150 million people,” the news service reports (3/7). An estimated 925 million people were undernourished in 2010, down from 1.023 billion in 2009, but still too high, FAO said, Reuters reports (Kovalyova, 3/7).

“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,” according to an FAO press release (3/7). “In many countries, women do not have the same legal rights to buy, sell or inherit land, borrow money or open bank accounts, sell their produce or sign a contract. When women do have similar rights, the law is not always upheld by government officials,” Women’s eNews notes. Women face other barriers, such as being shut out of deals with large food companies because they lack the resources to ensure deliveries, the report said (Rausch, 3/7).

“The report makes a powerful business case for promoting gender equality in agriculture,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said in the press release. “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 (3/7).  

The report also “said while world food prices fell after spiking in 2008, they remain elevated and volatile, a situation likely to continue owing to rising production costs, growing demand from biofuels and pressure on supplies from a rapidly-expanding population,” the Wall Street Journal writes. Food consumption around the world is exceeding supply and as a result, “prices are projected to increase over the next decade and to continue to be at levels, on average, above those of the past decade,” the report said (Henshaw, 3/7).

The report also puts forth specific recommendations for reducing the gender gap in agriculture. “To improve overall agricultural efficiency, the authors recommend strengthening, enforcing and publicizing women’s rights to education, landholding and contract making,” Women’s eNews writes (3/7). The benefits of expanding women’s access to agriculture would go beyond agriculture. It “would also put more income in the hands of women – a proven strategy for improving health, nutrition and education outcomes for children,” the press release notes (3/7).

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