Gender equality is ‘critical ingredient’ in fight against poverty and hunger – UN agriculture chief

16 December 2016

The fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition is not possible without gender equality and women empowerment, José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said today in Rome, where he called for more efforts to ensure that rural women, “the backbone of our work in agriculture,” enjoy a level playing field.

Speaking at a high-level event co-organized by FAO, the European Commission and the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Women., Mr. Graziano da Silva said achieving gender equality is the “critical ingredient” to ending poverty and hunger .

“Women are the backbone of our work in agriculture,” and they also comprise 45 per cent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, including up to 60 per cent in parts of Africa and Asia, said Mr da Silva.

The Director-General also emphasized that rural women play a key part in the efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and especially Goal 2 on eliminating hunger and malnutrition worldwide.

"It's all about opportunity. Evidence shows that when women have opportunities, the yields on their farms increase – also their incomes. Natural resources are better managed. Nutrition is improved. And livelihoods are more secured."

Women own less than 20 per cent of agricultural land, yet, almost half the world’s agricultural labour force is female, and 60 per cent of chronically hungry people on the planet are women or girls.

“When you invest in a man, you invest in an individual. When you invest in a woman, you invest in a community,” noted Kanayo Nwanze, the President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“We see time and time again that gender equality opens doors for entire communities to strengthen their food and nutrition security and to improve their social and economic well-being,” he continued, adding: “Empowering rural women is indeed empowering humanity.”

Maria Noel Vaeza, Director of Programs at UN Women, said: “Closing the gender gaps in agriculture can provide multiple development dividends, including gender equality for rural women, food security and poverty reduction, improved climate management and peaceful societies.”


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