The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced the allocation of $5 million this year by the US government to promote gender equality in agriculture and land use and to integrate gender effectively into agricultural development and food security programmes, as the world faces an imminent food crisis.
The new gender programme, she says will be within the Feed the Future, the US government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
Secretary Clinton made the announcement Monday September 19, 2011 when she hosted a panel discussion at the InterContinental Barclay Hotel, New York City. The theme for the discussion was “Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security.”
Highlighting the challenges facing women in agriculture, she said, “We know that women farmers represent a major untapped resource, but we don’t know nearly enough about which approaches will change that. So we need concentrated research about the obstacles facing women farmers worldwide so we know how to remove them, so women can contribute even more.”
Secretary Clinton told the gathering, “I don’t need to tell this audience that while we meet here in this beautiful hotel, nearly one billion people are suffering from chronic hunger, and in the Horn of Africa we are seeing the devastating impact of acute hunger and starvation.”
According to the UN, the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in the last 60 years is affecting 12.4 million people.
Secretary Clinton attributed the drought to human acts.
She said, “Now, at the root of the crisis in the Horn of Africa is a man-made problem. And we are all working together to try to alleviate the suffering and to save lives, and we’re also as an international community sending a very strong plea to the group al-Shabaab, which is continuing to prevent humanitarian organizations from getting aid to the people who need it, primarily women and children.”
“As a result, the United Nations warns that up to 750,000 people living in famine-stricken areas of Somalia could die in the next 120 days,” she reiterated.
Secretary Clinton argued that one way to address global hunger and achieve significant results is to invest more in women.
“Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many developing countries. They’re involved in every aspect of agricultural production, from planting seeds to weeding fields to harvesting crops. Yet women farmers are 30 percent less productive than male farmers, for one reason: they have access to fewer resources.”
As a result, she said women “grow fewer crops, which means less food is available at markets, more people go hungry, farmers earn less money, and we’re back in to that vicious cycle.”
The production gap between men and women farmers disappears when that resource gap is closed, she said.
Secretary Clinton said “If all farmers, men and women, had access to the same resources, we could increase agricultural output by 20 to 30 percent. That would feed an additional 150 million people every year.”
According to the UN agency, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) women produce over 50 percent of the world’s food and in sub-Sahara Africa women produce about 80 to 90 percent of food and the World Bank estimates that African women work far longer hours than men. On average their workdays may be 50 percent longer.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi