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Gender Equity Key to Feeding 9 Billion by 2050

Published 01/01/1970 by Global Communities

Suzanne Petroni from TFF Challenge on Vimeo.

“Valuing women, paying greater attention to women’s rights – that’s the solution to our population growth issues and, I would argue, it’s also the solution to our food security challenges,” said Suzanne Petroni at the Thought for Food Summit in Berlin last year.

Petroni, senior director for gender, population, and development at the International Center for Research on Women, says that population growth and food security are ultimately both women’s issues, and that empowering women through education, agricultural training, and allowing them to be household decision-makers can decrease the average family size (taking pressure off household resources) and increase food production.

All About Agency

Rapid population growth today is largely due to a lack of information, education, and access to contraception, says Petroni:

Contraceptives don’t plan families; people do, women do. Birth control, combined with greater empowerment of women and changing roles about women, led women and men to be able to decide and to have the number of children that they wanted and when they wanted.

But the UN Population Fund states that there are at least 222 million women worldwide who lack modern methods of contraception, many of whom live in developing countries. In Ethiopia, for example, only 27 percent of women were using modern methods of contraception in 2013, compared to 73 percent of women in the U.S., according to thePopulation Reference Bureau.

Education also plays a key role in determining family size. Studies have shown that women with higher levels of education tend to have smaller families, reducing the strain on household resources. Increased education for women and girls also enhances their employment opportunities, which can have benefits for the entire household sincewomen tend to reinvest a high percentage of their incomes than men into their families.

Feeding the Family 

Breaking down barriers to women’s agency can also improve food security. Women comprise 60 to 80 percent of agricultural workers worldwide, Petroni says, in addition to playing a key role in bringing food to markets for sale. However, women farmers are often underpaid and undervalued, limiting their potential for growth and independence. Women are also given less access to agricultural inputs, credit, land, and extension services to help them finance and improve their harvests.

As a result, women may put in the same amount of time working the land as men, but their yields are significantly lower, says Petroni:

If women were given the same access to agricultural inputs – training, seeds, fertilizer – if they were given the same access as men, agricultural yields would increase by up to 30 percent at the household level, and up to 4 percent overall.

That could reduce the number of hungry people around the world by 12 to 17 percent,according to a 2011 estimate from the Food and Agriculture Organization.

Meeting the accelerating global demands for food is therefore a gender issue as much as it is about technology or crop diversity. Providing women farmers with the same tools and training as male farmers would increase production, and better access to and information about family planning could lead to health and economic benefits that last for generations.

This article originally appeard on News Security Beat