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Gender aspects of multifunctional agriculture

Posted on | February 8, 2015 | Comments Off

WG16 – Gender aspects of multifunctional agriculture

The agricultural sector is the most dominant source of employment, livelihood and income for people living in developing countries both directly and indirectly. Both women and men shape the way agricultural production and trade are practiced. FAO’s estimates show that women represent a substantial share of the total agricultural labour force, of which two-thirds are either individual food producers or agricultural workers. And, women play a major role in local and cross-border trade. However, in many places tasks are clearly divided across gender lines and decision-making is often dominated by males, whereas a large part of the work burden is upon the women. Therefore, decisions are mostly based on economic considerations rather than labor-intensity or stability.

Despite all the economic opportunities associated with increased globalization and international trade, the benefits for women in the developing world are often lower. They are for example unable to compete in overseas markets or widen their production units and many are exploited. Even though globalization triggers migration and pulls out the male labour out of farming, the trend of feminization of agriculture increases the work burden but often does not increase their room to maneuver and freedom in decision-making. As the traditional ‘nurturers’ of families, women involved in agricultural activities tend to be strongest in regard to social attributes such as health and cultural considerations but are often disadvantaged, when it comes to access to markets, marketing of commodities, knowledge on innovations or employment opportunities, which all determine access to food. The informal nature of their operations not only limits government revenue but also constrains income growth by limiting access to formal credit and exposes them to economic and social exploitation. These and other social-institutional constraints faced by women tend to make them more vulnerable than men.

Evidence shows that resources controlled by women are more likely to be used to improve family food consumption and welfare, reduce child malnutrition, and increase the overall family wellbeing. It is therefore necessary to have a thorough analysis of how agricultural policy, strategy and planning can be improved to positively impact food security, nutritional status, income, and equality and hence economic development from a gender perspective. This Working Group will look into the ways women shape agricultural systems differently than men. Women’s strengths and constraints will be illuminated in regard to the economic, social and environmental attributes of agricultural production and trade systems. The group will combine discussions of genderfocused approaches (empowerment of women) and gender-integrative approaches (representation of gender issues) in development strategies and invites presenters to showcase examples from diverse places across the globe. The main and final objective is to develop a vision for gender-sensitive agriculture, which might include relevant aspects of production, sustainable practices and trade. Such assessment is crucial to the successful development of any programme or policy concerned with increasing the benefits from agricultural production and trade in the Global South.


Simon Peter Nsereko, Policy expert, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture-Uganda Office. Email: S.Nsereko@cgiar.org/spnsereko@yahoo.com Phone: +256782746361

Sarah Marie Nischalke (PhD), Food Security Analyst, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development- Nepal E-mail:snischalke@icimod.org


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