One of every three employed women work in the agricultural sector or some agriculture-related activity. However, according to a new report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, or FAO, globally, there is a 24 percent gap in productivity between women and men farmers on farms of equal size.
That’s because in many countries, gender-based discriminatory practices prevent women from contributing equally to the agri-food sector. Women are paid 20 percent less than men. They do not own land in equal proportion to men, lack access to necessities such as high-quality seeds, irrigation, and fertilizers, and face discriminatory laws and practices, says the report.
But in this day of increasing food insecurity, closing the gender gap in farm productivity and the wage gap in agricultural employment could increase global gross domestic product by nearly one trillion dollars and reduce the number of food-insecure people by 45 million.
“[Women] use fewer inputs, so they produce less. It’s that simple,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power, quoting the author of a 2011 FAO report. Speaking at the U.S. launch of the FAO’s “Status of Women in Agrifood Systems” report, she said that although there has been some progress since then, it’s not nearly enough.
“If we are to see real progress, we do have to double down on our efforts to address systemic barriers – the laws that prevent women from owning land or opening bank accounts, or the norms that dictate that it is women who must care for children and homes,” she said.
Administrator Power then introduced USAID’s new initiative, Generating Resilience and Opportunities for Women, or GROW. Through this program, she said, USAID will work with the U.S. Congress to double the funding to women across agricultural and food systems to $335 million.
“We are going to help women build resilience to economic shocks that may make seeds and fertilizer unaffordable,” she said. “We will support women to take on economic roles off the farm, … and we will work to direct resources to women in humanitarian crisis zones.”
GROW will provide the resources to address barriers, including laws, that prevent women from fully participating in, or equally benefiting from, agricultural and food work,” said Administrator Power.
“There are hundreds of millions of women who are ready, willing, and able to help us end hunger, if only we dismantle the barriers standing in their way.”