Mainstreaming gender for sustainable soil management
Soils are an essential and non-renewable natural resource that provide goods and services vital to ecosystems and human life. They are fundamental for producing crops, feed, fibre and fuel, for filtering water and cycling nutrients.
Unsustainable land uses, natural hazards and worsening climatic effects are increasingly degrading soil resources and placing the livelihoods of vulnerable populations in jeopardy. Already, 33% of world’s soils are degraded and more than 2.9 billion people are affected by land degradation leading to food shortages, hunger and malnutrition, conflicts over natural resources or distressed migration, with differentiated impacts on men and women.
As specified in the Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management (VGSSM), sustainable soil management is a measure to combat soil degradation processes, which simultaneously ensures the long-term productive potential of soils and the maintenance of their environmental functions. The successful use of the guidelines will depend on the collective action of multiple stakeholders in an inclusive, gender sensitive, and sustainable manner.
Closing the gender gap in access to productive resources and services is crucial for the achievement of a Zero Hunger world. Women comprise about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force globally and half or more in many African and Asian countries. They also constitute the majority of farmers in many of the regions most severely affected by desertification, land degradation and drought.
The labour burden of rural women exceeds that of men and includes a higher proportion of unpaid household responsibilities. Despite their crucial role in agriculture and food production, women often have limited rights to the land they farm, preventing them from efficiently controlling soil degradation and enhancing soil fertility. Women also often cannot influence natural resource governance decisions and practices in their communities, and have less access to information, extension services and education than men.
This online discussion aims at collecting the views from a wide range of stakeholders about the relations between gender equality, sustainable soil management and food security. The feedback gathered from this consultation will inform and provide inputs to draft the ‘Guide on gender and sustainable soil management’, to be prepared by the Regional Soil Partnerships, the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS) together with the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division of FAO, with inputs from gender and soil management specialists.
The objectives of this guide are to promote the adoption of a gender-responsive approach to support sustainable soil management. The target audience is composed of various stakeholders such as governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations engaged in gender, land and rural development issues, soil scientists/experts, land and soil professionals, women’s and farmers’ organizations, researchers and policy-makers.
To help with this inclusive process, we invite you to share your experience, views and feedback by replying to the following questions:
- In your view, what is the relation between sustainable soil use, management and conservation (including soil fertility and health) and gender equality?
- What are the distinct roles for women, men, boys and girls in sustainable soil management?
- What are the main gender-based constraints, including unequal gender relations and discriminatory norms that hinder sustainable soil management and contribute to soil degradation? What practical solutions and approaches could help overcoming such barriers?
- How can the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment contribute to sustainable soil management and conservation? Which interventions at policy and project/field level are of utmost priority? What are some potential entry points for success?
We greatly appreciate your contributions and ideas related to the topic of global importance ‘Sustainable Soil Management and Gender equality’.
Director of Land and Water Division, FAO
Antonio Correa Do Prado
Director of Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division, FAO
Ilaria Sisto, Gender and development officer, FAO
Ronald Vargas, Global Soil Partnership Secretariat, FAO
This activity is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.
Ayşen Sema Tekin
When soil conservation is considered as a priority natural resource, it is necessary to first look at who owns the land as property. If women own the property of the land, it may be important who the decision maker is. Both female and male farmers can share work and solidarity for the protection and sustainable management of the fertility of the land they own. Usually female farmers undertake planting and harvesting, while male farmers undertake tillage. Resident farmers know that sustaining agriculture on land acquired through inheritance or acquisitions depends on good land management. However, it is important to support them in terms of methods. Farmers may not be willing to be informed if they use land as annual tenants or seasonal workers.
My best ,
Aysen Sema TEKIN
Dr. Md. Altaf Hossain
In your view, what is the relation between sustainable soil use, management and conservation (including soil fertility and health) and gender equality?
Reply: In the verse of Prophet Muhmmad SAW (Al Hadith) it is said that Adam was first given the knowledge of agriculture. Eve used to hold seeds of wheat while Adam was spreading the seeds in the field. The soil was so fertile that within hours of sowing they could harvest wheat to meet their daily requirement. So, the role of woman in sustainable soil use, management and conservation is a pre-historical agenda. In South Asian villages woman are engaged in preserving cowdung, farm refuses in a pit. They dry and clean the harvested seeds usually by winowing (blowing) with a handy devise (locally known as Kula).
What are the distinct roles for women, men, boys and girls in sustainable soil management?
Woman’s encourage family members to preserve use the soils properly and keep it healthy for future generation.
Man will decide what to cultivate on which land and all the management decisions in consultation with family members.
Boys and girls will cooperate with their parents in conducting sustainable soil management practices.
What are the main gender-based constraints, including unequal gender relations and discriminatory norms that hinder sustainable soil management and contribute to soil degradation? What practical solutions and approaches could help overcoming such barriers?
Woman and children are usually left behind during decision making processes. This culture should be changed with inclusive approach. Every family member would like to give his/her opinion regarding sustainable soil management issues.
Family farm may be given a cooperative structure each family member having a definite role and capacity to realize that.
How can the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment contribute to sustainable soil management and conservation? Which interventions at policy and project/field level are of utmost priority? What are some potential entry points for success?
Family farms should be given a formal structure- a family business. Each family members should be given a definite role and should be up scaled to perform that role. They would fix their cultural practices incorporating good agricultural practices (GAP).
Policy should be fixed to encourage farm owners to adopt GAP with incentive packages.
Farm products may be given price support if the farm adopt GAP.
Prof. Dr. Amanullah
Very good topic indeed. SSM is very important everywhere and every time. The role of both women and men are important. In some parts of the world women are not allowed to work in the field. So in these areas awareness and training of girls in school is very important. I will suggest that SSM practices lessons needs to be included in science books at school level. In some back ward and neglected areas awareness of both women and men are important. The importance of SSM even not clear to policy makers, extension officers and field assistants etc. The training of field assistant and extension officers are very important because they have close links with male formers. In Islamic point of view, the importance of soil is reported in many places in the Holy Book of Quran. I think ulema/imam/and religious people also play a significant role in the training of all communities through loud speakers and mass media etc., thanks.
Myanmar SLM project contribution
1. In your view, what is the relation between sustainable soil use, management and conservation (including soil fertility and health) and gender equality?
In my point of view, it depends on the location. To understand this relation, one needs to first list the soil management practices/activities carried out in a specific place, and then to analyze gender roles and women participation/equality in the context of these specific activities.
2. What are the distinct roles for women, men, boys and girls in sustainable soil management?
Normally here in Myanmar, the farm activities have been carried out by unpaid family labor. In some cases, paid labor is also applied. Whether it is paid labor or unpaid family labour, similarly we will need to analyze the activity by gender roles; women, men, boys, and girls. According to these figures, we could know the distinct roles in terms of gender for each category.
3. What are the main gender-based constraints, including unequal gender relations and discriminatory norms that hinder sustainable soil management and contribute to soil degradation? What practical solutions and approaches could help to overcome such barriers?
Again, it depends on the location, for example, we are applying SALT (Sloping Agriculture Land Technology) in Chin State which is a sustainable soil management practice. First, the farmers (he/she) should own the land (land tenure security). The second important thing is investment because soil management practices are normally costly in terms of money and labor as well. It also depends on other factors; whether sustainable soil management techniques are accessible/feasible (for example – guidance by staff of the department of agriculture/INGO/LNGO), whether farmers can have alternative income sources, and farmers’ personal interest and willingness to do so, etc.
4. How can the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment contribute to sustainable soil management and conservation? Which interventions at policy and project/field level are of utmost priority? What are some potential entry points for success?
Dear FSN forum,
I believe that gender equality and sustainable soil management is deeply interconnected. In my project context in India, I have experienced that when men and women work together at farm it becomes more productive for them and society.
In one of my project in eastern India, I have done some trend analysis and found that women used to carry food to the field for men and gradually they started getting involved in farming. Further women's involvement started happening through more decision making oriented.
So, here is lot of scope that if we build farming skill of women members simultaneously with men, then both can take decision on what kind of seed to be purchased, what kind of soil management need to be followed, what kind of mulching mechanism need to followed, what amount of organic compost need to be applied in gardening etc.
Many a times, we silently ignore the women's capacity building though they manage that work. E.g. in one project, my partner used to install vermi-compost pit just beside the farm house to produce quality compost and apply into the gardening. Partner have conducted many training /awareness program where women's participation was only 8 percent. Interestingly the women only put the waste into the compost pit, manage the whole process till compost ready stage. But our partner never thought (in 3 years) to build their skill on compost application for better soil health management. So, this knowledge gap is not conducive for soil health management.
On other perspective, the ownership on land also a big factor which is remain neglected in many cases. But when a small farm families holds the lands (even tiny plots) there will be higher chances to see that women and men happily involved in farm operations. Even if we provide training, they show keen interest to adopt good agronomic practices because they know that they could easily apply on their own plots. So, land ownership and acknowledging women member's role could bridge between gender equality and soil health management.
Sometimes, we have experienced that women members always try to do something related with gardening in small plot and maintain livestock at home. Whereas men try to focus on large scale farming like rice/wheat/corn etc. So, integration is required into their ideology that soil as whole as unique resources and caring all God's creation in soil need to save.
Ultimately similar understanding and participation in program, land ownership process, conflict resolution skill on land issues, gender specific strategy for all kinds of agro-input distributions, uses of easy farm tools to reduced drudgery etc. could play vital role in gender equality and soil management.
Dr. Groppo Paolo
English translation below
Comme l’histoire agraire de notre humanité a maintes fois démontré (lire “Histoire des agricultures du monde”), la condition sine-qua-non pour pratiquer l’agriculture sur le long terme a toujours été la reproduction de la fertilité des sols, c’est à dire maintenir (voire améliorer) l’outil de base de la production dans des conditions permettant son usage a des fins productifs. On pourrait dire que la première preoccupation de tout agriculteur, homme ou femme, réside dans le maintien de la fertilité de base - et donc l’invention de techniques le permettant - et seulement ensuite l’invention de techniques productive pour utiliser cette fertilité. Le mot fertilité est ici employé dans le sense non seulement strictement agronomique mais aussi de la biodiversité de l’écosystème dans son ensemble. Preserver la biodiversité, et donc maintenir les haies en bordure des champs, la rotation des cultures, une utilisation de fertilisant “naturels” tant soit peu (guano péruvien par exemple, utilisation du fumier des animaux), nettoyer les fossés en bordures de champs (lire à ce propos le livre “Fossi e cavedagne benedicono le campagne”), garder les différents arbres, enfin l’humanité a eu cette préoccupation en tete depuis que l’agriculture a été inventé.
La question de la degradation des sols intervient donc dans l’ère moderne, quand la mécanisation et la chimisation ont bouleversés les pratiques d’antan. Petit à petit les agriculteurs/trices deviennent des facteurs de production comme tous les autres, soumis à des logiques productives décidées ailleurs et toujours à la recherche d’une augmentation de la productivité physique dans la vaine recherche d’une amélioration du niveau de vie. Comme je l’ai expliqué dans un texte en cours de publication (“Di chi è la terra”), alors qu’une famille paysanne du Centre de la France pouvait survivre - à la fin des années 30 - avec une productivité de 260 quintaux d’équivalents blé par actif, 50 ans plus tard, pour la même survie, il fallait une productivité de 2100 quintaux équivalents blé par actif. Une augmentation de presque huit fois qui seule pouvait être obtenue par une simplification du paysage agraire (élimination des haies, arbres, fossés) et une utilisations poussée d’intrants chimiques, le tout pour maintenir le meme niveau de vie.
L’agriculture dite moderne est donc la principale responsable de cet état de fait, auquel s’ajoute la formation d’un marché unique qui met en compétition des agricultures ayant des conditions de base différentes et inégales.
Sans s’attaquer à ce problème de fond, la recherche de roles différents pour hommes et femmes est risible. Quand une famille paysanne abandonne l’agriculture intensive, la division du travail, si division il y a, est essentiellement le fruit des us et coutumes locales, donc, encore une fois, de l’histoire.
Je ne pense donc pas qu’il y ait, dans l’absolu, des roles différents qui puissent favoriser une gestion plus soutenable des sols. Hommes et femmes paysannes, quand ils sont soumis aux dictats du marché internationale et qu’ils sont pris dans l’étau de l’agriculture “moderne”, c’est-à-dire qu’ils sont devenu des servants d’une forme de production dictée ailleurs, n’ont aucune possibilité de reverdir ce processus, sauf à en sortir. Le changements de mode de production, vers une agro-écologie, pourra donner des résultats, pas en insistant sur des dimensions périphériques au problème.
As the agrarian history of our humanity has repeatedly demonstrated (see "History of world agriculture"), the Sino-qua-non condition for practising agriculture in the long term has always been the reproduction of soil fertility, i.e. maintaining (or even improving) the basic tool of production so that it may be used for productive purposes. It could be said that the first concern of any farmer, male or female, is the preservation of basic fertility and thus the invention of techniques to enable it, and only then the invention of productive techniques to harness this fertility. In this case, the term fertility is used not only in the strictly agronomic sense, but also to refer to the biodiversity of the ecosystem as a whole. Preserving biodiversity, for example, by maintaining hedges at the edge of fields, rotating crops, using "natural" fertilizers (e. g. Peruvian guano, use of animal manure), cleaning ditches at the edge of fields (see the book "Fossi e cavedagne benedicono le campagne"), protecting different trees, etc. is an evidence that this concern has been of interest to humanity since the very first days of agriculture.
The issue of soil degradation arises in the modern era, when mechanization and chemical fertilization have disrupted the practices of the past. Gradually, farmers are becoming factors of production like any other, subject to productive rationales adopted elsewhere and always in search of increased physical productivity in the quest for an improvement in the standard of living. As I explained in a text that is being published ("Di chi è la terra"), whereas in the late 1930s a peasant family in central France could survive with a productivity of 260 quintals of wheat equivalents per worker, 50 years later, the required productivity for the same survival was 2100 quintals of wheat equivalents per worker. This is an increase of almost eight times that could only be achieved by simplifying the agrarian landscape ( removing hedges, trees, ditches) and making more extensive use of chemical inputs, all of which in order to maintain the same standard of living.
The so-called modern agriculture is therefore the main cause of this situation, combined with the formation of a single market that puts farmers with different and unequal basic conditions in competition with one another.
As long as this fundamental problem is not addressed, the search for different roles for men and women is absurd. Wheneverer a peasant family abandons intensive agriculture, the division of labour, if any, is essentially the result of local customs and habits, and therefore, once again, of history..
So I do not think that there are, in absolute terms, different roles that could foster a more sustainable soil management. When they are subject to the dictates of the international market and caught in the vice of "modern" agriculture, i.e. when they have become servants of a form of production dictated elsewhere, peasants, men and women alike, have no possibility of reversing this process, except by escaping from it. Results could be achieved by shifting production methods towards agro-ecology, not by emphasizing marginal dimensions of the issue.
Mr. Dinesh Panday
Taking reference to Nepal and many other Asian countries, women should be trained (if they have not received yet) so that they can be independent in farming business or make easy access to have resources that can be helpful in better soil management and higher crop production. For example, vermicompost or jholmal (bio-fertilizer, for details: https://www.cogentoa.com/article/10.1080/23311932.2019.1631026. Educating women is also that you are improving the quality of food/diet products from the field and family members will be healthier.
To attract more youth, curriculum reform is crucial in many Asian countries. One of the ideas that I was delivering at Youth In Landscape 2015 is “Soil Science Academy in Nepal”-- a networking and capacity building process on attracting the youth to the agriculture landscape by following sustainable soil management practices, for details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRO95Z8tua0.
In summary, youth and women should consider the core shareholders of Sustainable Soil Management and Gender Equality.
Mr. Pedro Rivera Cea
ENGLISH TRANSLATION BELOW
1.- La relación que se establece entre el uso, la gestión y la conservación sostenible del suelo y la igualdad de género es directa en la medida que son las mujeres las más relacionadas con la provisión de los abonos naturales para los suelos debido a que son ellas las que se identifican con las crianzas familiares de aves, porcinos, ovinos, cuyes, entre otros y contribuyen directamente con un uso racional de los suelos y su condición de fertilidd y salud de los suelos.
2.- Los roles de las mujeres, hombres, niños y niñas en la gestiónm sostenible de los suelos son diferenciados de acuerdo a los roles que de manera tradicional se les encargado. La mujer es la cuidadora de las semillas y a lo largo del año va considerando la condicion de los suelos para los cultivos y se preocupa porque se encuentren guaneados por los animales para que brinden una adecuada producción. El hombre se encarga básicamente de la roturación y labores mas fuertes relacinados a la instlación de los cultivos en las épocas apropiadas y de acuerdo a los indicadores climáticos que se manejan en las comunidades rurales. Los niños y las niñas participan como parte de sus aprendizajes en todas las labores que realizan los padres. Aprenden haciendo las labores de pastoreo o guaneo de las chacras con los animales o crianzas familiares así como las labores relacionadas con la produccción de los suelos para los diversos cultivos.
3.- Las principales limitaciones basadas en el género, incluidas las relaciones desiguales de género y las normas discriminatorias que obstaculizan la gestión sostenible de los suelos y contribuyen a su degradación, son las que tienen que ver con la recargada labor de la mujer respecto que se considera como su responabilidad la crianza de los animales que proveen de guanos de corral a los suelos agricolas destinadas para los cultivos de la familia. La mujer no tiene derecho a usufructuar la tierra comunal y solo el hombre es considerado el jefe de familia, dejando en segundo plano a la mujer. La soluci´n paa por modificar los estatutos de la comunidad donde se otorgue igualdad de derechos sobre la tierra a las mujeres y hombres.
4.- La promoción de la igualdad de genero y el empoderamiento de las mujeres puede contribuir a la gestión y conservación sostenible de los suelos mediante el reconocimiento de las relaciones de desigualdad entre mujer y hombre en los roles productivos, deben revisarse el marco normativo a nivel de comunidades rurales, gobiernos locales y entidades del estado que apoyan los proceos productivos. Es fundamental considerar que es la mujer rural la que juega un rol decisivo en el manejode los recursos naturales a nivel de familia, comunidad y local, para diseñar politicas y accciones que cambien la situación de desigualdad en los roles productivos rurales.
1.- There is a direct relationship between sustainable soil use, management and conservation and gender equality, to the extent that women are most involved in the supply of natural fertilizers for soils. They are the ones identified with the backyard breeding of poultry, pigs, sheep, guinea pigs -among others- and contribute directly to a rational soil use and to maintaining their fertility and health.
2.- The roles for women, men, boys, and girls in sustainable soil management differ according to those traditionally assigned to them. Women are the custodian of seeds and throughout the year they analyse the soil condition for cultivation and ensure it has animal manure to guarantee adequate yields. Men are basically in charge of ploughing and the more physically demanding tasks related to growing crops timely and according to the climatic indicators used in rural communities. Boys and girls participate as part of their learning in all the tasks undertaken by their parents. They learn by grazing or putting guano in the farms with the animals or by raising them at the family level. They also take care of the tasks related to the soils for producing different crops.
3.- The main gender-based constraints -including unequal gender relations and discriminatory norms that hinder the sustainable soil management and contribute to soil degradation- are those related to the overburdened work of women with respect to what is considered to be their responsibility: breeding animals that provide farmyard guano to agricultural soils intended for family crops. Women do not have the right to use the communal land and only men are considered the head of household, overshadowing women as a result. The solution lies in modifying the community statutes, in order to grant equal land rights to both men and women.
4.- The promotion of gender equality and women´s empowerment can contribute to sustainable soil management and conservation, acknowledging the unequal relation between women and men in productive roles. Therefore, the regulatory framework at the level of rural communities, local governments and state entities that support productive processes should be reviewed. Acknowledging that rural women play a decisive role in the management of natural resources at the household, community and local levels is essential to design policies and actions that could change the situation of inequality in rural productive roles.
Mr. Robert Mutisi
Women have been distanced culturally from owning land and making decisions related to land usage. This has negatively impacted on the efforts from women to engage into sustainable soil management.
Women are more connected to land activities than men if we look at farming. Women in rural areas spend most of their time doing farming whilst men are most of their time at work in towns and still hold on to decisions to be passed on land use and soil management. Even though women spend most of their time in farming activities decision making remains a responsibility for men.
My understanding is that women can as well make right decisions like men if given the space to do so.This space can only be created if men start a new era of seeing things through the gender lens.
Mr. Noah Zimba
Soils as a living resource requires matching feeding attention in order for it to maintain its productive capacities for the good of humankind and ecosystem.
There is no doubt that most of production systems are devoid of encouraging nutritional lifeline of the soil hence causing increasing impairment of its productive capacity. Subsequently there is growing expansion in search of new sites as existing ones become degraded. No wonder both food and nutritional security is at risk with the most vulnerable constituency being women facing the burden of survival.