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Women and Girls

Women Smallholders

There is a gender gap in agriculture in low-income countries between the resources and rights available to men who work the land and those available to women who do the same.

On average, women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labor force and produce 60 to 80 percent of food crops in poorer parts of the world. Often unpaid or low-paid laborers, they cultivate field and tree crops, tend livestock, and grow home gardens. Most of them are part of the 475 million smallholder families who operate on less than 5 acres of land.

Women have less access to a range of resources, from land rights and credit to education and technology. Even though they farm as capably and efficiently as men, inequality in assets, inputs, and support means women produce less on the same amount of land. Closing this gender gap can improve the lives of women, their families and communities, while addressing global warming.

If all women smallholders receive equal access to productive resources, their farm yields will rise by 20 to 30 percent; 100 to 150 million people will no longer be hungry. When agricultural plots produce well, there is less pressure to deforest for additional ground, avoiding emissions.

References

percent of the agricultural labor force: FAO. The State of Food and Agriculture: Women in Agriculture. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2011.

percent of food crops: Grow Africa. Smallholder Working Group Briefing Paper—Women Smallholders. Johannesburg: Grow Africa, 2016.

475 million smallholder families: FAO. The State of Food and Agriculture: Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016.

less access to…resources: Agarwal, Bina. “Food Security, Productivity, and Gender Inequality.” In The Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics, and Society, edited by Ronald J. Herring. Oxford University Press, 2015; FAO, State, 2011; Sellers, Sam. Gender and Climate Change: A Closer Look at Existing Evidence. New York: Global Gender and Climate Alliance, 2016.

[impact of] receiv[ing] equal access: Davies, Ken. “Unlocking the Power of Women Farmers.” The Guardian. June 12, 2014; FAO, State, 2011.

outputs…exceed men’s: Agarwal, “Food.”

percent of landholders [who] are women: Agarwal, “Food”; FAO, State, 2011.

Kindati Lakshmi [on owning land]: Tripathi, Ruchi, et al. What Works for Women: Proven Approaches for Empowering Women Smallholders and Achieving Food Security. Johannesburg: ActionAid, 2012.

Bina Agarwal…[on] measures needed: Agarwal, Bina. “Food Security, Productivity, and Gender Inequality,” The Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics, and Society. Edited by Ronald J. Herring. Oxford University Press, 2015.

cooperatives…share labor, resources, and risk: Tripathi, Ruchi, et al. What Works for Women: Proven Approaches for Empowering Women Smallholders and Achieving Food Security. Johannesburg: ActionAid, 2012.

many smallholders at risk: Nelson, Rebecca, and Richard Coe. “Agroecological Intensification of Smallholder Farming.” In The Oxford Handbook of Food, Politics, and Society, edited by Ronald J. Herring. Oxford University Press, 2015.; Whitehead, Frederika. “Creating a Fertile Future for Smallholder Farmers in Africa.” The Guardian. February 13, 2015.

“building resilience to climate change”: FAO, State, 2016.

population…9.7 billion by 2050: DESA. World Population Prospects: The 2015 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2015.

gender equality [and] cereal yields: FAO, State, 2011.

women…reinvest…into education, health, and nutrition: Matsaert, Frank. “Empowering Female Traders in East Africa Will Boost Growth—and Fight Poverty.” The Guardian. December 15, 2015.

Nepal…[impact of] women’s landownership: Allendorf, K. “Do Women’s Land Rights Promote Empowerment and Child Health in Nepal?” World Development 35, no. 11 (2007): 1975-1988.

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