ROME, Dec 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - If women farmers
were given the same access to land, tools and credit as men, the
boost to crop yields would dramatically cut world hunger, but
this must be done fast before climate change closes the window
of opportunity, hunger experts said on Friday.
Agricultural yields would increase by almost a third if
women had the same access to resources as men, said Neven
Mimica, European Union commissioner for international
cooperation and development.
"As a result, there would be up to 150 million fewer hungry
people in the world," he told a meeting of experts and
government representatives, gathered at the U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) to find ways of helping women
Children also have significantly better prospects for the
future when their mothers are healthy, wealthy and educated, he
"If we are serious about putting an end to poverty and
hunger once and for all, then we all need to step up our support
for rural women," he said.
Women and girls make up 60 percent of the chronically hungry
- often eating last and least in the family - Mauritian
President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim told the meeting.
They make up 45 percent of the agricultural work force -
rising to 60 percent in parts of Africa and Asia - and own less
than 20 percent of land, according to FAO.
They work on average 12 hours a week more than men in
developing countries, and reinvest up to 90 percent of their
earnings back into their households, the U.N. agency said.
Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of
droughts in many parts of the world and changing temperature and
rainfall patterns, requiring investment in new crops and
techniques in many areas.
"In the absence of concerted effort to address the gender
gap in agriculture in the context of the changing climate, rural
women are at risk of being trapped in a downward spiral," said
Maria Noel Vaeza, director of programmes at U.N. Women.
"Conversely, key initiatives that address this gap - such as
secure land tenure, greater financial inclusion and access to
information and markets - are also essential to accelerate the
adoption of climate smart agriculture," she said.
Climate smart agriculture includes reducing the amount of
greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture - which with forestry
and changes in land use contributes 21 percent of global
emissions - and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Emma Batha.; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)