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Gender information is essential for equitable and sustainable development. Gender issues must be addressed in many parts of the world not only to overcome existing disparities between men's and women's participation in the development process, but also to ensure an enabling environment for improving food security and achieving sustainable development. This brief review of the available and desirable data and their sources suggests that existing systems for the collection, organization and analysis of agricultural statistics in many countries need to be reviewed to fill the data gaps. This can be done by:

However, as with many other challenges in rural development, the poor quality of data from rural areas in developing countries should not be used as an excuse for not taking action on pressing issues. We cannot afford to wait until all recommendations for data improvement have materialized. There will always be risks associated with acting on less than perfect information but this is true of many other areas of concern, such as ecology or unemployment. FAO thus advises its members that, while working to improve the quality of data from rural areas in general, and in particular that of data on human resources and gender issues, they should also make the best use of existing data to support current policy necessities and responsible decision-making.

Statistics are both an instrument of knowledge and a tool for advocacy. Thus, our efforts are guided by a twofold objective: i) to build a solid knowledge base that can reasonably sustain hypotheses and facts about the respective roles of women and men in rural development and, hence, the benefits from a more equitable allocation of resources; and ii) to bring new and meaningful knowledge to the relevant categories of public and private users through effective strategies and means of communication.

When based on solid data, clear and well-articulated messages can be formulated and delivered to various audiences. Basing social arguments on good evidence, these messages should be conducive to concrete action, and they have great potential in promoting accountability, good governance and the participation of stakeholders, which will ultimately lead to sustainable development and food security for all.

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