Investments in Women Can End Global Hunger

April 4, 2014

Commentary – Investments in Women Can End Global Hunger
By Catherine Bertini
*Reblogged from The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Ending hunger and ending poverty are goals on which we all agree. The world has thousands of schemes to attempt to achieve these goals, but we often overlook the simplest, most direct and effective method to change the world: investing in women.

Women are the adults whose roles are to take care of every family member every day. Women are the adults in the family who invest their incomes and assets to support the family. Women are the people whose education and economic success have the most impact on the family.

Throughout the developing world, women are central to agriculture and comprise at least 43 percent of the agricultural work force. Hundreds of millions of women toil every day in fields with babies on their backs and toddlers at their feet, leaving only to return home to fetch water and firewood and to cook dinner for the family. Most work by hand on land that they do not own, with limited farm implements and fertilizer, if any, following the same practices their mothers followed. They seldom have access to credit or to advice on how to be more productive. Most cannot count the rows they plant, nor read the back of a bag of seeds.

Yet International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) findings tell us that educated farmers are more productive than non-educated farmers, and that women are more likely to follow the practices of other women. Thus, insuring that women are educated is a key to more productive farming, higher household incomes, and a decrease in poverty and hunger.

The same is true for land ownership. A land owner, male or female, is much more invested in insuring that land is productive. If a farmer does not own her own land, she has limited incentive to invest in the land. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) writes that women only own small percent of the world’s farm land. But as women comprise 43 percent of farmers, why does it not follow that they should be 43 percent of land owners?

Even more than in education, women are often limited by culture and by law, to own or to inherit land. Women often face restrictions on establishing credit or owning assets. FAO statistics show that women receive less than ten percent of agricultural credit.

These limitations no longer make sense – if they ever did.

When women have access to the same resources as men, their agricultural yields increase by 20 to 30 percent according to the FAO.

The world faces a huge challenge to keep up with growing populations and increased demand for food from the world’s growing middle class. We cannot afford to limit people’s ability to produce food, and to contribute to the larger market place. By limiting women’s options, we are blocking our collective ability to feed future demands.

If only we invest in women; if only we change laws to allow women to invest in themselves; if only we insure that girls are educated; then they will change the world.

Catherine Bertini is a Senior Fellow at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

New IFPRI Discussion Papers from Gender Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP):

February 4, 2014

The Gender Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP), jointly led by IFPRI and ILRI, has released the first set of discussion papers detailing the findings of the GAAP.

Following the Project Notes , which summarized findings from all 8 projects, the Discussion Papers give more detail on specific projects in the portfolio.

IFPRI Discussion Paper on the CARE-Bangladesh Strengthening the Dairy Value Chain Project.

IFPRI Discussion Paper on the Landesa West Bengal Microplot Allocation Program.

IFPRI Discussion Paper on the BRAC Targeting the Ultra Poor Program in Bangladesh.

IFPRI Discusison Paper on the HKI Enhanced-Homestead Food Production program in Burkina Faso.

Online Discussion: Data Gaps on Gender Equality

January 30, 2014

From January 27th through February 14th, an online discussion on data gaps on gender equality is taking place at the Wikigender website. The outcomes and main findings of the discussion will be synthesized and presented at a side event occuring in March 2014 at the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Each of the three weeks of the discussion has a thematic focus, as follows:

Week 1: January 27- The Socioeconomic Empowerment of Women

Week 2: February 3 – Violence Against Women

Week 3: February 10 – The Civic and Political Participation of Women

Join the discussion here.

IFPRI Discussion Paper: Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture – What Role for Food Security in Bangladesh?

January 29, 2014

Women’s low status and persistent gender gaps in health and education in South Asia contribute to chronic child malnutrition (Smith et al. 2003) and food insecurity (von Grebmer et al. 2009), even as other determinants of food security, such as per capita incomes, have improved. This is particularly relevant for Bangladesh, where chronic food insecurity continues to be an important issue despite steady advances in food production. To be able to leverage agriculture as an engine of inclusive growth, there is a need to develop indicators for measuring women’s empowerment, examine its relationship to various food-security outcomes, and monitor the impact of interventions to empower women.

Using nationally representative survey data from Bangladesh, authors Esha Sraboni, Hazel Malapit, Agnes Quisumbing, and Akhter Ahmed examine the relationship between women’s empowerment in agriculture and two measures of household food security: per adult equivalent calorie availability and dietary diversity. Theyuse the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index to assess the extent of women’s empowerment in agriculture and instrumental variables techniques to correct for the potential endogeneity of empowerment. They find that the overall women’s empowerment score, the number of groups in which women actively participate, women’s control of assets, and a narrowing gap in empowerment between men and women within households are positively associated with calorie availability and dietary diversity.

For the full paper, click here.

New IFPRI Discussion Paper: Gender Inequalities in Ownership and Control of Land in Africa: Myths versus Reality

January 9, 2014

Over the past decade, stakeholders have made a variety of generalized claims concerning women’s landownership, both globally and in Africa. Typically, these claims include statements with single statistics, such as “women own less than 2 percent of the world’s land” or “women own approximately 15 percent of land in Africa south of the Sahara.” These claims are problematic because they are not substantiated by empirical evidence, do not reflect variations in landownership across or within countries, do not acknowledge differences in landownership regimes, nor address comparative ownership by men in the same contexts. Neither do they address the difference between ownership and control of land. The lack of a clear understanding behind statistics on gender and land also leads to an inability to clearly articulate a policy response to the potential inequalities faced by women and men. The objective of a new paper by Cheryl Doss, Chiara Kovarik, Amber Peterman, Agnes Quisumbing and Mara van den Bold, Gender inequalities in ownership and control of land in Africa:  Myth versus reality,  is to explore, conceptually and empirically, the levels and relative inequalities in landownership between women and men in African countries.

The review investigates the extent of women’s land ownership in sub Saharan Africa, using nationally representative data sets.  The paper highlights the need to clarify what we mean when we provide statistics on women’s land ownership—what do we mean by ownership, and what land are we talking about.  Most of the available data is not consistent on these points.  Where there is data available, there is a very mixed picture of women’s land ownership, and broad generalizations hide that important variability.

Video: Beyond Gender Myths – Closing the Knowledge Gap in Agriculture and Food Security

December 13, 2013

There is now growing recognition of the importance of attention to gender for agricultural productivity and food security.  However, many “gender myths” persist; myths that either underestimate or overstate the importance of women’s roles and resources.  In order to close the gender gap in productivity or assets, there is a need to close the knowledge gap.  This policy seminar presented evidence gathered for a new volume of studies titled “Gender in Agriculture and Food Security: Closing the Knowledge Gap”.

Audio podcasts

At this event, Terri Raney highlighted key messages of the State of Food and Agriculture report on gender and agriculture, and how this report has catalyzed new research on gender and agriculture.  The gender asset gap and its implications for agricultural and rural development was presented by Agnes Quisumbing.  Ruth Meinzen-Dick discussed one type of capital—social capital—and how it interacts with gender in agricultural development programs.  Lastly, Deborah Rubin talked about promoting gender-equitable agricultural value chains.

For more information, see the event page here.

New Video on Gender and Assets: Focus on GAAP projects

November 20, 2013

The CGIAR’s Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) just released a short video interview with Agnes Quisumbing, one of the Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project (GAAP) PIs and the Senior Gender Advisor to A4NH. In the video, Agnes explains the important linkages between gender and assests and how their relationship can affect people’s ability to engage in and benefit from interventions. She showcases two of the GAAP portfolio projects: The Harvest Plus Reaching End Users Project and the Helen Keller International Enhanced Homestead Food Production Program.


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