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Aug 16 2012

Taking Land out of the Footnotes

By Vivien Savath, Research and Evaluation Specialist

Released at a time when global food security is headlining the news every day, the FAO’s report, The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011: Women in Agriculture – Closing the Gender Gap for Development, was a breakthrough.

The statistics cited in the summary, highlighting women’s role in agriculture, have had resounding impact in the international development community, and rightfully so:

Closing the gender gap in agricultural resources and services (not including land) could increase yields on women’s land by 20-30%, raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4%, and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million.

Little noted, is that deep in the 160 page report the authors say that providing women equal access to land could make an even greater impact:

“Of course, the potential production gains calculated by this method are based on the existing distribution of land… [C]ountries where women control proportionately more land could achieve the greatest potential gains… Increasing women’s access to land as well as complementary inputs in that case would generate broader socio-economic benefits than those captured in this analysis.”

While the exact proportions vary across regions, the existing distribution of land referred to in the quote is one in which women make up between 3-30% of agricultural landholders, despite producing the majority of food in many regions. That gap widens into a veritable gulf when you also factor in the fact that men’s holdings tend to be larger and of better soil quality than women’s.

At Landesa, we recognize the catalytic potential of land, spotlighted in this new infographic. We want answers to the follow up questions that require more research: What would be the impact on food production and poverty if women and men had equal amounts and quality of land?

–        How much more in yields?

–        How much more agricultural output?

–        How many fewer hungry people?

Let’s take land out of the footnotes and back-pages. Let’s find out.

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