The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Zimbabwe today joins the world in commemorating International Women’s Day 2022. Held under the theme #BreakingTheBias, whether deliberate or unconscious, bias especially in the food and agriculture sector makes it difficult for women to progress. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough. Action is needed to level the playing field in this sector. This year’s commemorations are being held when the world is battling with the effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic among other multiple challenges – women and girls have suffered this burden the most.
“Climate change affect men and women differently. It is therefore impossible to build resilience in households and communities without addressing systemic gender inequality as gender influences sensitivity to disturbances and, even within the same household, individuals will experience shocks and stresses in different ways,” said Dr. Patrice Talla, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa and FAO Representative to Zimbabwe.
March 8 is marked around the world as International Women’s Day. For many women in Africa, including those in the agriculture sector, it will be just another day where invisible barriers hold them back from their true potential. FAO believes that inclusivity and fairness are key to achieving sustainable development in agriculture and that this objective cannot be obtained without accounting for the central role played by women in the sector, including in agriculture markets, trade and value-chain development.
In Zimbabwe, FAO has played a big role in recognizing, advocating and celebrating the contribution of women and girls to building sustainable agri-food systems. FAO projects, that have been implemented in the country have immensely contributed to food and nutrition security were implemented anchored around gender equality and women empowerment.
Adaptation to climate change entails building households and community capacities to not only survive and recover from current crises but also strengthen their defences in the face of future threats. Through the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) and cyclone IDAI recovery projects, assets accumulated through small livestock ownership by women helped build resilience to climatic shocks and cushioned households during covid-19. Under social norms, women that own assets are given strong rights to control income and decisions on how to spend the money. Ownership and control of assets by women increases their decision-making power and control of benefits from agriculture. Small livestock ownership by women has been shown to have a direct co-relationship with improved household nutrition and building household resilience to climatic and other shocks.
Women are usually the first adopters of climate smart technologies and agro-ecology. With 70% of those receiving extension training on climate change being women, FAO has seen women and girls play a key role in climate change adaptation and mitigation as well as disaster risk reduction in many communities. Female farmers and fisherwomen are using the vital knowledge gained in early warning systems and production techniques, to better adapt to changing climatic conditions.
FAO shares a commitment to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in agri-food systems through community-based facilitated and pluralistic approaches to extension that respond to wider livelihood options and increased reach for women and girls. Being the most impacted through climate change, and the majority of farm workers, women are a critical part of the solutions in managing natural forest resources and indigenous seed systems especially, neglected and under-utilized seeds. Where projects have empowered women, rural farming households are making joint decisions regarding which crops to grow with females making more decisions on crops compared to their male counterparts.
According to FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel, “Women are crucial to Africa’s agricultural development. They play a crucial role in agriculture in the region. They contribute significantly to food production, processing and marketing, household food security and nutrition, natural resources management and conservation of biodiversity in the face of climate change. In recognition of women’s roles, this year’s International Women’s Day theme focuses on the importance of gender equality for sustainability. On International Women’s Day and every day, FAO champions gender equality and women’s empowerment for a sustainable tomorrow.”
Let us all join hands and raise awareness on the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change on agri-food systems, and on the interventions needed to address them, build women and girls’ resilience, and unleash their potential to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts.
Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias. Happy International Women’s Day from the FAO Zimbabwe team!
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.