International Women’s Day

Strengthening Women Reduces Hunger
March 6, 2013
by Marcia MacNeil

At IFPRI, every day is women’s day, as improving women’s lives is one of the most effective ways to reduce hunger. UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter recently quoted an IFPRI study in a March 4 New York Times op-ed, The Feminization of Farming: “…as much as 55 percent of the reduction in hunger from 1970 to 1995 could be attributed to improvements in women’s status in society.” More recent results from IFPRI’s research on gender and food security include:

  • In Ethiopia women who manage farms are less likely than their male counterparts to receive important information about improved seeds and fertilizer from agricultural extension agents—and their farms’ productivity suffers as a result.
  • Seventy-three percent of economically active women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood. An IFPRI gender assessment of the country’s agricultural sector concludes that if the country is to emerge from severe hunger and malnutrition, it must pass and enforce laws that offer opportunities to women, link women’s organizations to markets, and invest in education for girls.
  • Investments in women and girls—such as stronger stances against domestic violence, increased participation in decision making, and education opportunities—are associated with better long-term nutritional status of children in Bangladesh.

IFPRI’s ongoing research projects, such as the Gender, Agriculture, and Assets Project and the Climate Change, Collective Action, and Women’s Assets project study how agricultural development programs can reduce gender differences in access to and control over assets—such as money, livestock, land, education, and social networks—and help women farmers and pastoralists manage risks and adapt to climate change. The groundbreaking Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index is used by agriculture and development programs to measure their effectiveness in improving women’s inclusion in the agricultural sector.

IFPRI’s forthcoming 2012 Global Food Policy Report highlights the growing attention being paid to the role of gender equality in agricultural growth and food security. According to the report’s authors, better outcomes depend on programs that address the particular needs of women as well as men, and vigorous engagement with women’s groups as full partners in agricultural development.