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Equality for Women Can Reduce World Hunger, Says UN Report

Ending discrimination against women in agriculture could feed 150m people, according to Food and Agriculture Organisation


Rice planting in Pakistan. Women make up 43% of the agriculture workforce in developing countries. (Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

Giving women better access to land, technology and other agricultural resources could reduce the number of hungry people by up to 150 million, according to the UN food agency.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that about 925 million people across the globe were undernourished in 2010. Of these, 906 million live in developing countries.

Giving women the same tools and resources as men, including financial services, education and access to markets, could increase agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5% to 4%, it said in a report released on Monday . This could in turn reduce the number of hungry people by 12% to 17%, or by 100 to 150 million people.

The FAO director general, Jacques Diouf, said ending discrimination against women in agriculture was necessary to win the fight against world hunger. "Gender equality is not just a lofty ideal, it is also crucial for agricultural development and food security," he said.

Women make up 43% on average of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, said the report, released in Rome on the eve of International Women's Day. Typically, rural women who are employed tend to be kept in low-wage jobs and have seasonal or part-time work, according to the FAO.

Yields on plots managed by women are lower on average than those managed by men, a result of their lack of access to tools and technology compared to male farmers.

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