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World Population Day. Gender Gap in Agriculture

The World Population Day is an annual event, celebrated on the 11th of July and created to raise awareness of our global population issues. The Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) established it in 1989.

As T. Folnović (2021) reminds us, the World Population Day ‘aims to increase people’s awareness of various population issues such as the importance of family planning, including gender equality, poverty, maternal health, and human rights.’

Taking inspiration from the World Population Day themes, we would like to focus this article on the gender gap in agriculture.

Past studies have highlighted that ‘Women play important and varied roles in agriculture, but they are constrained by two important types of gender gaps: women have unequal access, relative to men, to productive resources, and there is insufficient information about the roles and resources of women and men. Closing these gender gaps would be good both for women and for agriculture.’ (Quisumbing et al., eds, 2014, in the International Food Policy Research Institute).

In a recently published report on the Status of Women in Agrifood Systems (2023), FAO pointed out that the lack of knowledge and impossibility to access useful resources, together with a higher unpaid care burden, lie at the root of ‘a 24 per cent gap in productivity between women and men farmers on farms of equal size.’ Besides, the female employees working in the agricultural sector earn 20 per cent less than their male counterparts.

According to this report, closing the gender gap in farm productivity and the wage gap in agricultural employment would ‘increase global gross domestic product by nearly $1 trillion and reduce the number of food-insecure people by 45 million’ at a time of growing global hunger.

One of the aims of World Population Day is to highlight the link between rising world population and food security. The outcome of FAO research confirms once more that closing the gender gap in agriculture can radically contribute to increased food security.

Another critical issue to consider is the gender gap in mobile connectivity. In farming − especially in remote areas – it is quite common to find that low or scarce connectivity hinders technological developments in the whole farming industry. With relevance to gender, the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) Mobile Gender Gap Report 2023 states that across low and middle-income countries (LMICs) ‘an estimated 900 million women are still unconnected and not using mobile internet, with almost two thirds of these women living in either South Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa. These are also the regions where mobile gender gaps are widest at 41% and 36%, respectively.’

The GSMA also stressed that ‘over 800 million women [. . .] across Africa, Asia and Latin America, must adopt mobile internet to close the digital gender gap by 2030.’ The forecasts, though, predict that only 360 million more women (less than a half of the target) ‘will take up mobile broadband by 2030.’

The above data clearly shows that addressing the gender gap in agriculture is not an easy task. It needs to be considered in depth and requires an integrated, multi-faceted approach. Key strategies that should be applied include:

  • Promoting equal access to productive resources, including land, credit, and technology.

  • Enhancing women's education and training opportunities in agricultural practices, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

  • Ensuring women's meaningful participation in decision-making processes and empowering them as agents of change.

  • Reducing the burden of unpaid labour through the provision of support services, infrastructure development, and gender-responsive policies.

  • Promoting gender-sensitive agricultural policies, programs, and investments that address the specific needs and challenges faced by women in agriculture.

Farmer Charlie team participates in the Cool Mangoes project in Côte d’Ivoire, where strategies to offer women equal opportunities and increased participation in farming are being researched. We have understood that men primarily work in the fields, while women are mostly involved in processing operations. There are cultural barriers and literacy issues, finance challenges, security concerns, lack of connectivity and infrastructure, all meaning that bringing Internet to this region is linked to more than one challenge. However, giving the opportunity to get access to connectivity and educational platforms to local farmers, especially women, may gradually open the door to a brighter future.

Bridging the gender gap in agriculture cannot be achieved by single entities but requires a forward-looking and intensive strategy in which active participation of stakeholders and international organisations is needed.

By closing the gender gap in agriculture, societies can unlock the full potential of women as key contributors to agricultural productivity, food security, and sustainable rural development. Achieving gender equality in agriculture is not only a matter of social justice; it is also essential for achieving global development goals.

-Marina Novokhatska

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