Women play a major role in the management of agricultural landscapes. In rural and agrarian communities, they grow the cereals that form the foundation of meals, manage nutrient rich home gardens and forage for wild fruits and medicine. Not only are women growing the food, they’re fetching firewood, cooking meals and cleaning up afterwards – their daily lives are intertwined with all aspects of food production from the household to the fields and the forests, which means they also have the potential for protecting and affecting great change in these integrated systems.
But, even as these stewards engage with their communities and the management of natural resources, they lack the basic rights that allow them to do their job well. Lack of land tenure, decision-making power, access to technology, credit and education all stand in their way. These issues have serious consequences. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, women represent over 40% of the agricultural workforce in developing countries, but their yields are 20-30% lower than their male counterparts on average because of these gaps. If women were empowered to get the most out of their farms, the extra output could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17%!
Making progress to improve the rights and resources available to women farmers would be a game changer for food security, poverty and ecosystem health. Initiatives and important conversations, like the conference on Agricultural Investment, Gender & Land in Africa, are making the effort to bridge this gap by encouraging research and in investment in programs that are sensitive to gender equity and the powerful potential role of women in integrated landscape management. This International Women’s Day, in the International Year of Family Farming, must be the year we all fully commit to closing the gender based yield gap.