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To pursue these objectives, FAO has identified the following four priority areas as the target of its gender mainstreaming efforts: food and nutrition, natural resources, agricultural support systems, and agricultural and rural development policy and planning.


Food security is defined by FAO not only in terms of access to, and availability of food, but also in terms of resource distribution to produce food and the purchasing power to buy food where it is not produced.

In some societies, women are the victims of food discrimination, whereby priority is given to feeding the male members of the family first, compromising the nutritional and health status of the female family members.

Although both rural women and men have different and complementary roles in guaranteeing food security at household and community levels, women often play a greater role in ensuring nutrition, food safety and quality and are generally responsible for processing and preparing food for their households and, thus, for the nutritional well-being of the household members.

Example of Planned Action

The Food and Nutrition Division will ensure generation, compilation and dissemination of dietary and nutritional status data disaggregated by sex for all age groups. Analysis of specific nutrition issues related to gender will be prepared and reported in the regular updates to Nutrition Country Profiles, and annually for the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report.


The preservation of biological diversity, including plant and animal genetic resources is now widely recognized as critical to achieving food security. The rural poor, who have benefited least from modern high-yielding plant varieties and cannot afford external inputs (such as fertilisers, pesticides, high quality feeds, etc.), grow the majority of their crop from seeds that they have selected and stored themselves. Gender-differentiated local knowledge systems play a decisive role in the conservation, management and improvement of genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Example of Planned Action

Communication strategies for natural resource management developed by the Forest Resources Division (e.g. mountain, trees-outside-forest, forest management) will be gender-sensitive, promoting women’s and men’s access to gender-sensitive technologies and a more equitable share of responsibilities in watershed management, as well as equitable access to resources, in particular trees, and increased involvement in decision-making processes.


The division of labour between women and men in agricultural production varies considerably from region to region and community to community. However, it is usually men who are responsible for large-scale cash cropping, especially when it is highly mechanised, while women take care of household food production and small-scale cultivation of cash crops, requiring low levels of technology.

Increased access to agricultural support systems, including credit, rural organizations, technology, education, extension and marketing services, is essential to improving the agricultural productivity of both women and men farmers. Given women’s crucial role in production, provision and processing of food, any set of strategies for sustainable food security must address their limited access to productive resources.

Example of Planned Action

The Research, Extension and Training Division will develop methodologies for assessing: information needs of research, extension and education systems and users; gender-sensitive information, communication and technology (ICT) applications and content; training materials for distance learning.


The lack of gender-specific information of the role people play in achieving food security and agricultural development have led to the fact that the ‘human factor’ has often been overlooked by agricultural development planners. Development policy-making processes are promoting greater participation of stakeholders in planning and decision-making at all levels, expanding the role of the private sector, and increasing decentralization in decision-making.

Empowerment is needed for rural women and men to take development into their hands, and capacity still needs to be built to provide the fundamental basis for their full participation at all levels.

Example of Planned Action

With the aim of enhancing national policies in the fishery sector, the Fishery Policy and Planning Division will monitor and report information considered essential as a guide to major policy decisions on global fisheries management and aquaculture, taking into account gender issues and recognizing the need for adequate data on the role of women and men in the fisheries sector.

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