One of a researcher’s biggest fears is that research outputs go unread, gathering dust on people’s shelves before ending up in the recycling bin. However, this fear was unfounded for our work on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), which has gone from esoteric research tool to a widely-used data collection tool that has inspired a new generation of policies and programs for women’s empowerment in Bangladesh. Our long history of working in Bangladesh, coupled with an impressive record of policy engagement, made Bangladesh an ideal setting for asking the following research question: How does one really empower women in agriculture?
The issue of women’s land rights for land restoration will be discussed at a high-level panel “This Land is Our Land: Gender perspectives on tenure and rights” at the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris, December 6. In preparation for that event, we have asked a number of experts:
Follow the debate on the Thrive, the blog of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land, and Ecosystems.
New blogpost by Cheryl Doss (Senior Lecturer in African Studies and Economics at Yale University and Leader of cross-cutting gender research, CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets – PIM) and Caitlin Kieran (Senior Research Assistant on Gender, PIM) as part of the CGIAR Talking Science blog competition:
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.
Last week was an exciting time to be working for women farmers as they contribute to poverty reduction and agriculture development. Two new reports articulated the business case why we should all be targeting our efforts and resources to getting women farmers the tools and resources they need to manage productive farms and control the benefits they receive from their labor.
Large-scale deals of land by foreign investors in developing countries–also referred to as ‘land grabs’– have generated considerable attention; however little attention has been paid to the gender dimensions of these deals. A gender perspective is critical to truly understand the impact of land deals. Women and men have different social roles, rights and opportunities and will be differentially affected by changes in tenurial regimes associated with large-scale land deals. The rationale for paying attention to gender issues in agriculture derives from a wide-ranging body of evidence that demonstrates the many ways in which women are essential to improvements in household agricultural productivity, food security, and nutrition. Evidence indicates that, in many parts of the world, men and women spend use resources differently: women are more likely to spend the income they control on food, healthcare, and education of their children. Empirical work also shows that increasing resources controlled by women will promote increased agricultural productivity. Land-related investments that are promoted in the name of “rural development” will therefore miss their mark unless they address the needs of women as well as men.