This report presents a synthesis of information on women in agriculture in seventeen countries of the Near East region.1 The objectives of the synthesis report are to: (a) provide quantitative, qualitative and comparative data on women in agriculture in the Near East region; and (b) furnish a baseline document to assist in developing a Regional Plan of Action for Women in Agriculture in the Near East (1996-2000), or RPAWANE 2000. RPAWANE 2000's overall goal is to ensure an evolving and dynamic understanding, at different levels, of the situation of women in agriculture in order to improve their status and enhance their contribution to sustainable agriculture by defining strategies and instruments with reachable targets. Equally important is promoting the integration of women's concerns in the agendas of Member Nations and United Nations fore.
1 Cyprus, Egypt, Iran (I.R. of), Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen.
RPAWANE 2000 is a sequential and broad-based initiative that started in early 1993 in cooperation with the seventeen countries, FAO Headquarters, other UN Agencies, regional institutions and NGOs RNE/WID has at present an informal network of seventeen country coordinators who in 1994 prepared country papers on women in agriculture, through the use of participatory mechanisms and tools. The papers were based on an outline and innovative guidelines, which were enriched and finalized in an Expert Consultation held for this purpose in December 1993. The outline corresponds to the UN Secretariat's reporting requirements on the advancement of women for the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, 4-15 September 1995.
The Synthesis Report is a product of consolidated information as taken from the country papers, and is supplemented by additional data from other sources, as indicated. As the individual country reports reference the data provided in terms of source and year, for the purpose of this report, national source references are not repeated. A complete list of references, including the country papers, can be found in the Bibliography.
Various means were used by the country coordinators to collect the data for the country papers, such as participatory and rapid rural appraisals (PRAS and RRAS), national workshops and consultations, field trips, reviews of national statistical data and surveys and other available documents, etc.
Several methodological problems were encountered in the preparation of the Synthesis Report. Due to the lack of up-to-date gender-disaggregated statistical data in many participating countries, some information was missing or outdated. Country papers also exhibited wide variations in following the outline, and the statistical information provided made comparisons among countries difficult. In some countries, data was provided for the same variable but for different years, making comparisons over time difficult. Thus, caution was taken in interpreting the data presented.
Moreover, it is necessary to be cautious when making generalizations about the situation of rural women at the regional level as it often differs not only among countries but also within a country, depending upon the socio-economic and ethnic groups to which women belong, and to environmental and other factors characteristic of a particular area.
Despite these limitations, the Synthesis Report represents a useful contribution to assimilating information about women in agriculture in the Near East region. It also provides an analytical synopsis of their roles and responsibilities and identifies the major constraints within which they operate.
The first section of the report provides a brief overview of the Near East region, summarizing the agricultural environment and highlighting the general backdrop against which rural women conduct their activities. The second section pulls together data from the country papers to establish the extent of women's participation in agricultural work. An overall description of the division of labour in crop, livestock, fisheries and agroforestry is then provided, as is an examination of the available data on the time women spend in agricultural and domestic tasks, together with gender disparities in wage earning and decision-making. The fourth section examines gender gaps in women's access to productive resources and services and economic structures, such as credit, land, extension, labour-saving technology and higher agricultural education. The fifth section provides an analysis of the level of institutional support for rural women in the Near East, such as policy-making positions in ministries of agriculture, WID units and NGOs The commitment of countries to internationally recognized women's rights, as well as innovative programmes, projects and international support targeting rural women in the region are then evaluated. The final section consolidates information on future strategic goals and objectives provided by each country, which set the basis for RPAWANE 2000's four priority areas of concern, as requested by the countries of the region.