Although industrial economies remain at the heart of the world’s sustainability challenges, emerging economies are playing an increasingly prominent role in influencing global sustainable development.

Women form a large proportion of the agricultural labour force in sub-Saharan Africa and play a vital role in ensuring family nutrition and food security. But gender-based inequalities in access to and control of productive and financial resources are inhibiting agricultural productivity and reducing food security. At the same time, a changing climate means that there is a shrinking window to close the gender gap in agriculture and seize the prospects for promoting women’s empowerment, economic development and resilience to shocks.

Agricultural systems deliver many benefits to society. An industrial cornfield in the United States might yield several hundred bushels of corn per year for processing into foodstuffs, animal grain or ethanol, which could be exported and consumed halfway across the planet. Meanwhile, a cooperative of small-scale cocoa farms in the Congo Basin could feed up to 80 per cent of the local population, employ dozens of producers and sustain the livelihoods of countless local families.