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.
A recent study measuring the economic costs of the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda provides strong evidence that reducing the gender gap could translate into significant poverty reduction and improved nutritional outcomes. The study was the result of a collaboration between UN Women, the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative and the World Bank. The study found that, in two of the three countries, a large part of the gender gap could be attributed to differential access to male family labour. This was largely due to the fact that the majority of women farm managers in these countries were widowed, separated or divorced. Women farmers in all countries were also less likely to grow high-value cash crops than men, and less likely to have access to agricultural implements and machinery.
The report provides a unique quantification of the costs in terms of lost growth opportunities and an estimate of what societies, economies and communities would gain were the gender gaps in agriculture to be addressed.
The gender gap costs Malawi $100 million, Tanzania $105 million and Uganda $67 million every year. Closing the gender gap could lift as many as 238,000 people out of poverty in Malawi, 119,000 people in Uganda, and approximately 80,000 people in Tanzania every year. These striking findings send a strong signal to policy makers and development partners that closing the gender gap is smart economics.
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