If women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million, FAO said in its 2010-11 edition of The State of Food and Agriculture report.



Yields on plots managed by women are lower than those managed by men, the report said. But this is not because women are worse farmers than men. They simply do not have the same access to inputs. If they did, their yields would go up, they would produce more and overall agricultural production would increase, the report said. 

"The report makes a powerful business case for promoting gender equality in agriculture," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. 

"Gender equality is not just a lofty ideal, it is also crucial for agricultural development and food security. We must promote gender equality and empower women in agriculture to win, sustainably, the fight against hunger and extreme poverty," he added.



Closing yield gaps reaps gains for all



Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 percent to 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 percent to 17 percent, or 100 to 150 million people. An estimated 925 million people in the world were undernourished in 2010, of which 906 million live in developing countries. 

"We must eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, ensure that access to resources is more equal and that agricultural policies and programs are gender-aware, and make women's voices heard in decision-making at all levels. Women must be seen as equal partners in sustainable development," Diouf said.



Women's work



Women make up on average 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to almost 50 percent in East and Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The share is higher in some countries and varies greatly within countries.



Where rural women are employed, they tend to be segregated into lower paid occupations and are more likely to be in less secure forms of employment, such as seasonal, part-time or low-wage jobs. 

New jobs in high-value export-oriented agro-industries offer better opportunities for women than traditional agriculture, the report says.