National Geographic News

Kelsey Nowakowski

National Geographic

Published March 7, 2014



Female farmers are 8 percent of the world’s population, men 11 percent. Women make up 20 percent of the agricultural labor force in Latin America and nearly 50 percent in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

This Saturday the United Nations marks the 103rd International Women's Day, celebrated each year on March 8. This year's theme, Inspiring Change, spotlights the successes of women in achieving equal rights while calling attention to existing injustices.

Women still face significant inequality on our world's farms, especially in developing countries. Women are just as good at farming as men, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, but because they have less access to resources, they get much lower crop yields.

By 2050 the global population is expected to grow by 2.3 billion people; food demand could rise 60 percent. Closing the gender gap in farming would not only fight hunger, but also provide "positive secondary effects," says Anna Fälth of UN Women.

For example, "empowered women have healthier and better educated children," she says.

The yield gap between men and women averages 20 to 30 percent, for several reasons.
The yield gap between men and women averages 20 to 30 percent, for several reasons.
In developing countries only 10 to 20 percent of landholders are women.
In developing countries only 10 to 20 percent of landholders are women.
In most countries the share of women with small farms who have access to credit is 5 to 10 points lower than for men.
Women have less access to education, especially in rural areas.
Women have less access to education, especially in rural areas. The education gap is largest in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
Women are less likely to own large farm animals
Women are less likely to own large farm animals, leaving them with smaller livestock and small-scale dairy projects.
Closing the gender gap
Closing the gender gap could increase yields in developing countries by up to 4 percent. This could reduce the number of undernourished people by 130 million, or 15 percent.

870 million undernourished population of the world
Graphic: Alvaro Valiño. Sources: UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank
11 comments
Dainty Nyasmythe
Dainty Nyasmythe

Policy makers should remove constrictive legislative and social-cultural factors that prevent women in Sub-saharan Africa from accessing climate smart practices, technologies and innovations, climate information and services and micro-finance.  In addition, governments should integrate gender considerations in assessing vulnerability, impacts and risks of climate change at local and national and involve women in climate change monitoring, adaptation and decision-making processes. By so doing, the governments can have a food secure society that is climate smart, inclusive and resilient.

pamela letstalkaboutcorsica
pamela letstalkaboutcorsica

education would appear to be a key here, I think. But, there again, that's a vast step that would have to be taken as it's certainly not advancing at a quick pace.

Mary Waterton
Mary Waterton

The rotten feminist agenda of pitting men against women is counterproductive. Men and women need each other.

Pervaiz Malik
Pervaiz Malik

Formulate and implement socio-politico-economic structure as that of former Soviet Union, especially in the entire so called Third World or under developed countries.

Richard Holloway
Richard Holloway

Close the gender gap. Okay, that's obvious. The real question is how?

Cindy Minarova-Banjac
Cindy Minarova-Banjac

@Mary Waterton  Ok then, you can go along needing men while most of use are putting our heads together and making an independent living without relying on men to support us.

t. giobbi
t. giobbi

@Benji Sun  but that wouldn't address the issues in this article. While that is a great realm of advancement, it would be another realm in which female agriculture workers would not have every opportunity as their male counterparts.

Benji Sun
Benji Sun

@t. giobbi @Benji Sun  teaching people is what's mentioned in the article, and i agree with it.  


"Women have less access to education, especially in rural areas. The education gap is largest in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa."


if you've watched the video, you'll notice one of the women who was taught by Geoff Lawton is now a teacher to other women.  i wouldn't say educated people are always less ignorant when it comes to social inequalities, but generally it is better to be educated than not.

Share

Feed the World

  • How to Feed Our Growing Planet

    How to Feed Our Growing Planet

    National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series.

See blogs, stories, photos, and news »

Latest Photo Galleries

See more photos »

Shop Our Space Collection

  • Be the First to Own <i>Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey</i>

    Be the First to Own Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

    The updated companion book to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, featuring a new forward by Neil deGrasse Tyson is now available. Proceeds support our mission programs, which protect species, habitats, and cultures.

Shop Now »