Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Women Help Solve Hunger. Why Is the World Still Waiting?
October 2008
Sandra Bunch, Rekha Mehra
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW)

A global food crisis has pushed agriculture to the top of the world’s policy agenda, forcing governments and international bodies to rethink the ways in which the world produces and distributes food. While soaring prices and shrinking supplies are the result of multiple causes, experts are focusing on boosting agricultural productivity as a means to deal directly with food shortages, especially in the developing world where the effects of high food prices are most severe.

Glaringly missing from these debates, however, is a focus on the key role women play in producing food and growing agriculture.

Today, more than 862 million people in the world go hungry.1 In developing countries, nearly 16 million children die every year from preventable and treatable causes: 60 percent of these deaths are from hunger and malnutrition.2 A key failing of past efforts to reduce hunger and increase rural incomes has been the lack of attention paid to women as farmers, producers and entrepreneurs in their communities. Are we poised to make the same mistakes again?

It’s not too late to integrate the lessons learned from the past four decades of international development work. To avoid the same pitfalls, we must look with fresh eyes at women’s role in the agricultural economy and see women, not merely as subsistence farmers and caretakers of their own families, as often comes to mind, but also as vital actors in the agricultural economy and the expanding world of commercial agriculture.

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