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Women in Agriculture Closing the gender gap for development

Women make significant contributions to the rural economy in all developing country regions. Their roles differ across regions, yet they consistently have less access than men to the resources and opportunities they need to be more productive. Increasing women’s access to land, livestock, education, financial services, extension, technology and rural employment would boost their productivity and generate gains in terms of agricultural production, food security, economic growth and social welfare. Closing the gender gap in agricultural inputs alone could lift 100–150 million people out of hunger.
No blueprint exists for closing the gender gap, but some basic principles are universal: governments, the international community and civil society should work together to eliminate discrimination under the law, to promote equal access to resources and opportunities, to ensure that agricultural policies and programmes are gender-aware, and to make women’s voices heard as equal partners for sustainable development. Achieving gender equality and empowering women in agriculture is not only the right thing to do. It is also crucial for agricultural development and food security.

About the series

The State of Food and Agriculture, FAO’s major annual flagship publication, aims at bringing to a wider audience balanced science-based assessments of important issues in the field of food and agriculture. Each edition of the report contains a comprehensive, yet easily accessible, overview of a selected topic of major relevance for rural and agricultural development and for global food security. This is supplemented by a synthetic overview of the current global agricultural situation.

For more information contact Terri Raney

Main messages

  • Women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries.

  • Women in agriculture and rural areas have less access than men to productive resources and opportunities. The gender gap is found for many assets, inputs and services and it imposes costs on the agriculture sector, the broader economy and society as well as on women themselves.

  • Female farmers produce less than male farmers, but not because they are less-efficient farmers – extensive empirical evidence shows that the productivity gap between male and female farmers is caused by differences in input use.

  • Closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains for the agriculture sector and for society. If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent.

  • Production gains of this magnitude could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17 percent. The potential gains would vary by region depending on how many women are currently engaged in agriculture, how much production or land they control, and how wide a gender gap they face.

  • Policy interventions can help close the gender gap in agriculture and rural labour markets.

Interview with Terri Raney, 
editor of The State of Food and Agriculture