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FAO, AU advocate support for African rural women as agents of change to end hunger

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African Union (AU) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have called for greater support to rural women as agents of change to end hunger.

The agencies made the call in a report released in New York on Thursday at a joint event with the AU on the margins of the ongoing UN General Assembly.

The report said that the gender gaps in agriculture in Africa was holding back progress toward ending hunger and must be urgently addressed.

Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organisation said it had become imperative to recognise and harness the fundamental contribution of women to food security and nutrition.

According to him, to ensure adequate food security, the persisting gender gaps in agriculture in Africa must be closed.

The Director-General called for better representation of women in governance mechanisms and decision-making processes, as well as adequate and equal access to land, financial resources, social protection programmes, services and opportunities for women in rural areas.

“We need to put in place gender targeted programmes that address women’s specific vulnerabilities but also their key role in household nutrition and resilience.

“Evidence shows that when women are empowered, farms are more productive, natural resources are better managed, nutrition is improved and livelihoods are more secure,” he said.

The Director-General noted that in some African countries, women account for up to 60 per cent of the labour force in family farming.

Da Silva said that women were largely responsible for agricultural activities such as growing vegetables, preserving harvests, raising small ruminants and family nutrition through the preparation of meals.

“Closing productivity gaps could increase food production and consumption by up to 10 per cent and reduce poverty by up to 13 per cent.

“If women have the same access to skills, resources and opportunities as men, they can be powerful drivers in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

“Empowering women in agriculture, value chains and trade will accelerate the achievement of the Malabo Commitments and the Sustainable Development Goals,’’ he said.

Asa Regner, UN Women’s Deputy Executive Director, said that FAO recognised the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment within the organisation “and gender is a major priority’’.

“It is a known fact that when women have decision-making power, all of societies will benefits.’’

Regner said that the partnership between UN Women and FAO had proven especially fruitful in turning words into concrete action.

She noted that FAO and partners were providing technical support to many African countries in order to empower rural women.

“One example is the joint programme on accelerating progress toward the economic empowerment of women in Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger and Rwanda, implemented with the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and UN Women.

“The programme has already enabled more than 40,000 women to receive training on improved agricultural technologies, and aims to enhance their access to financial services and markets,’’ she said. (NAN)

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