The crucial role of women in sustainable food systems

March 8, 2024

On this International Women's Day,  let's shine a light on the interconnectedness of women, food safety, and agriculture. As global attention shifts towards redesigning food systems to ensure safe and nutritious food, sustainable livelihoods, and healthy environments for everyone, it's paramount to acknowledge the pivotal role of women, who constitute half of both producers and consumers in our global food system.

The Crucial Role of Women in Agriculture

Agriculture stands as a cornerstone of human survival and economic progress, with women playing an undeniable role. From small family farms to large agricultural enterprises, women significantly contribute to food production for their families, communities, and beyond. However, despite their indispensable role, women often face cultural, social, and economic barriers that impede their productivity and full participation in agricultural development. These barriers encompass unequal access to resources, entrenched cultural norms, and instances of gender-based violence.

Women are responsible for 60%–80% of food production in developing countries and half of the food produced globally. Despite this substantial contribution, their role as food producers and providers—and their critical contribution to household food security—has only recently garnered recognition. Studies by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) underscore that women are pivotal to small-scale agriculture, farm labor, and daily family sustenance. However, they encounter greater difficulty than men in accessing land, credit, and productivity-enhancing inputs and services.

Addressing Gender Disparities in Food Systems and Value Chains

As we look towards 2050, feeding a global population nearing 10 billion necessitates a profound transformation in food production, processing, distribution, and consumption. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underscores the imperative of optimizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach, ensuring decent employment and livelihoods for all actors along the food chain while offering nutritious products without depleting natural resources. The FAO advocates for the construction of inclusive, efficient, and sustainable food systems.

Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are pivotal to fostering inclusive food systems. Women serve as major actors as agricultural producers, farm managers, processors, traders, wage workers, and entrepreneurs.

Empowering Women for Sustainable Development

Empowering women in agriculture is crucial for achieving sustainable development and food security. This empowerment involves enhancing women's access to resources such as land, water, and seeds, alongside providing education and training. By strengthening women's involvement in agriculture through education, land ownership, finance, and technology, we can bolster their productivity, income, and decision-making power while advancing gender equality and social justice. Promoting gender equity, reproductive rights, and reducing gender-based violence are essential steps towards realizing sustainable development goals and ensuring the well-being of women and their families.

Resilience to Climate Change

Women often possess unique knowledge and skills that contribute to agricultural resilience in the face of climate change. Their understanding of local ecosystems and traditional farming methods can be invaluable in adapting to changing environmental conditions and mitigating the impact of climate-related challenges. Gender-inclusive policies and strategies are crucial for building climate resilience, as they acknowledge the unique challenges women face due to existing gender inequalities. Enhancing women's access to financing, training, and agricultural extension services is essential for gender equality and empowering women in the agricultural sector.

Policy and Advocacy

Despite constituting 37 percent of the world’s agricultural employment, rising to 48 percent in low-income countries (ILO estimated, 2020), women continue to encounter pervasive barriers and discrimination in rural areas, with unequal access to productive resources, services, decent employment, and markets. Overcoming the marginalization of rural women requires addressing gender issues in policies, programs, and investments in agriculture and food systems.

In our journey towards sustainable food systems, let's emphasize the pivotal role of women. Their empowerment and inclusion are not only moral imperatives but also fundamental to building a more resilient and equitable future for all.

March 8, 2024

by Laura

from inoqo

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