We would like to thank all the people working in different institutions and countries who already contributed to the discussion on the relevance of mainstreaming gender equality issues for sustainable soil management.
We were glad to see that there is an increasing interest to analyze the complex relationship between environmental and social issues, and how this affects the management of soil and other natural resources. Soil is a non-renewable natural resource that provides multiple ecosystem goods and services, and is a crucial source of food and biomass. This is why proper soil management is essential for the success of environmental and agricultural policies, for the welfare of the population and for reducing conflicts related to natural resources management.
There is a general consensus that sustainable land use and management is the responsibility of everyone, with an increasing recognition that women play a fundamental role in soil management, by participating in family farming and in the entire food production process. Nevertheless, their crucial roles are considered often as support to men and not fully recognized, and are related to the structural transformation of the family, especially in rural communities. Some people have highlighted that women are more concerned with soil conservation, while men often look more at soil exploitation.
Gender inequalities in agriculture and food security remain considerable and require urgent action to ensure women’s equal participation in the sustainable management of soils and in the reduction of soil degradation. In this discussion, several people have also suggested to look at the intersectional identities of women and men, including class, ethnicity, age and status.
A long list of gender-based constraints was identified and many interesting suggestions were made on how to better involve women and youth in soil management, soil conservation and soil health, by investing in their knowledge and skills, providing them with equal access to technologies and practices, promoting collective action, increasing their access to extension and financial services, and labour markets, among many others.
We also acknowledge the recommendations to focus on women’s empowerment, by building their agency, changing relations and transforming structures, addressing systemic gender gaps in resources and capacities to sustainably manage the soil, and providing women with incentives to adopt a sustainable soil management or conservation practice (as indicated by the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management). Some interesting information was also shared on country initiatives, such as Micronesia where the “taro patches” play an important socio-cultural role to ensure appropriate drainage and soil quality, and are owned by women as guardians of these resources, by adding compost and seaweeds to maintain soil nutrients. In the Pacific islands, to respond to serious threats of climate change to food security, schools are inserting “learning gardens” to introduce innovative agriculture techniques.
We hope to receive in the coming days some additional ideas and recommendations that can help us in developing the Guide on Gender and sustainable soil management.
Ilaria Sisto and Ronald Vargas