The role of women in global agriculture

7 March 2017

A/Prof Robyn Alders has dedicated her career to international development work with traditional smallholder farmers. This International Women's Day she writes about the essential role women play in feeding the world.

On this 2017 International Women’s Day as we help forge a better working world, it’s vital that we remember the role of women in global agriculture. 

Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 percent of today’s global population.

On average women make up 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in low-income countries, and over 50 percent in parts of Asia and Africa, yet they only own 20 percent of the land. 

In Australia, women make up around 28 percent of the on-farm workforce as well as bringing in off-farm income to keep family farming enterprises alive as they battle poor farm gate prices. 

At a global level as we seek to provide sufficient food for 9 billion people by 2050, the active engagement of women in farming is crucial.  

It’s crucial not only because it’s the right thing to do, it’s also vital because the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations says that given equal access to resources, women would achieve the same yield levels as men, boosting total agricultural output in low- to middle-income countries by 2.5 percent to 4 percent.

This additional yield could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100 to 150 million or 12 percent to 17 percent. 

Providing access to fresh, nutritious food will not only feed the world, it will keep us healthier too!

For more on this important topic, read A/Prof Alders' piece in The Conversation.

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