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Press Release 99/56


Rome, 4 October - If world and national leaders are to have any hope of feeding their growing populations over the next 30 years, they will need to take a hard look at national policies and make sure the economic contributions of rural women are factored in, according to Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

His remarks came as he opened a three-day High-Level Consultation on Rural Women and Information today dealing with the importance of information and data on rural women in the formulation of national policies for agriculture and rural development. FAO hopes the meeting will serve as a wake-up call for governments and other partners struggling to ensure universal food security and sustainable development.

Government Ministers and other high-level representatives from FAO's member countries are in Rome for the Consultation along with officials from international agencies and non-governmental organizations. Senegal's First Lady, Ms. Elizabeth Diouf, also attended today's opening session in her capacity as Chairperson of the International Steering Committee on the Advancement of Rural Women. Expert panels set for Tuesday and Wednesday are to be moderated by Ms. Margareta Winberg, Sweden's Minister for Agriculture and for Gender Equality Affairs, and Ms. Angela King, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancment of Women. Panelists include experts in development, gender equality, communication and the media.

According to FAO, between now and 2030, global demand for food is expected to soar as total world population swells by 2.1 billion people. In much of the developing world, the task of producing the additional food will fall on women, who already produce 50 to 90 percent of domestic food crops in Asia, and between 80 and 90 percent in many sub-Saharan Africa countries, according to FAO data.

"There will be no food security without rural women," said Dr. Diouf in his opening address. He called attention to a progressive feminization of poverty in many developing countries, caused by persistent practices which limit women's access to land, credit, education, training and new technologies.

Dr. Diouf said that while no one today questions the important contribution of rural women to economic and social development, the problem now is to put hard data into the hands of politicians and decision makers, and to make sure that national policies are based on economic reality. He underlined the power of the media and new information technologies to disseminate information and data to the public and to decision-makers at all levels as well as to help to change public perceptions of rural women.

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