Flexible Voluntary Contribution (FVC)

Gender, value chains and sustainable tourism in Small Island Developing States


Small Island Developing States (SIDS) include some of the world’s most remote countries that share a similar set of challenges, including susceptibility to natural disasters, limited resources and dependence on international trade, in addition to a common aspiration for sustainable development, improved living standards and the remediation of gender inequalities. Women represent 52 percent of the agricultural labour force in SIDS and are essential agents of change to ensure a shift to more efficient and climate-resilient food systems.

To contribute to the knowledge and evidence base on gender, agri-food value chain development and climate-resilient agriculture in SIDS, the Gender Team from FAO’s Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division recently organized a webinar within the framework of the Flexible Multi Partner Mechanism (FMM) Subprogramme, Empowering women in food systems and strengthening the local capacities and resilience of SIDS in the agri-food sector. This Subprogramme forms part of the FMM Programme, Resilience and Sustainable Food Systems.

This webinar, titled “Gender, value chains and sustainable tourism in SIDS”, showcased innovative practices that link gender equality, value chains, climate change and sustainable tourism in SIDS, and explored how multistakeholder partnerships can enable successful initiatives for empowering women in agribusiness. The discussion concretely addressed the three pillars of sustainability (social, economic and environmental) and explored climate risks and crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, considering their impacts on tourism, agribusiness development for women and food security.

The event was moderated by Angelica Jacome Daza, Director of the Office of Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries at FAO. Opening remarks were given by three FAO Directors: Marcela Villarreal (Partnerships and UN Collaboration Division), Anping Ye (South–South and Triangular Cooperation Division) and Mette Wilkie (Forestry Division).

Marcela Villarreal started her remarks by stressing the need to provide the same access for rural women and men to productive resources in agriculture, to improve food security and increase productivity. She stated, “Equal and sustainable tourism provide significant opportunities to SIDS. Yet, ensuring gender equality is necessary, but not that necessarily simple.” Accordingly, she also proposed some targets to aim for in terms of gender equality in sustainable tourism, such as the need for stronger organizations, in which women and men have equal voices and decision-making power.

Anping Ye underlined the topics that would be addressed at the webinar, stressing that “sustainable, environmental, economic, social and gender aspects are among the main pillars of FAO’s mandate.” After emphasizing the role of tourism in economic growth and empowerment in SIDS, in particular for women and youth, he encouraged “the adoption and the replication of these experiences by countries with similar contexts and challenges through South-South and Triangular Cooperation.”

Mette Wilkie focused on recalling the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change and of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in SIDS. She pointed out that “sustainable tourism is crucial to minimize adverse impacts and maximize its benefits to guarantee its long-term sustainability” and insisted on the leading role of rural communities and indigenous and tribal peoples in enhancing the renewed efforts to support a more profound rural transformation that relies on inclusive and innovative food systems. Due to their local knowledge of sustainable natural resource management and practices at the household and community levels, women, in particular, play essential roles in responding to climate-related challenges and shocks. Ms Wilkie therefore advocated for more partnerships to promote gender-transformative solutions for climate action and sustainable development in agricultural sectors.

The dialogue continued through a rich discussion involving various panelists who shared their valuable experiences in SIDS and in countries facing similar development challenges.

As the Gender Senior Advisor for Sustainable Travel International, Jane Henrici provided an overview of the linkages between gender equality and sustainable tourism value chains in SIDS. Giorgio Grussu, Project Coordinator for the Coalition of Fragile Ecosystems at FAO, focused on the Palau programme and explained the relevance of gender equality in climate-resilient and innovative initiatives within the tourism sector. Nely Shiguango, Technical Advisor of the Indigenous community of Runashitu in Ecuador, presented the sustainable tourism value chain activities implemented within her community, showcasing the specific role of women and describing the lessons learned from this experience. Finally, Doña Rufina Villa, from the Taselotzin Masehual Organization in Mexico, gave concrete examples that explain some of the challenges local communities can encounter in the tourism sector. She continued by specifying the various projects put in place to enhance women’s rights and the empowerment of Indigenous women.

After a short Q&A session, Angelica Jacome Daza closed the webinar and invited all attendees to reflect on how to better support the advancement of gender equality in food systems in SIDS.

5. Gender equality

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