A call for policy-makers to involve women in solving land degradation, desertification

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Sharon Kavhu in New Delhi, India

Policy-makers should renew their commitments in advancing gender equality and women empowerment in tackling land degradation and desertification, Costa Rica’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Lorena Aguilar Rovelo, has said.

Rovelo, who is determined to promote gender-responsive action in environmental conservation, said women have a potential to significantly increase their yields and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 17% if they are given equal access to production resources that are given to men.

She said tackling land degradation and desertification demands that policy makers and practitioners renew commitments to sustainable development which advance gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as realising women’s rights as a pre-requisite for sustainable development.

“If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their families by 20 to 30 %.  This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5%-4%, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17%,” she said during an interactive dialogue on healthy land, healthy people on the side-lines of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) COP14 here.

 “Data shows that women do a fair amount of farming: 79% of economically active women in the world, in the past at least developed countries and 49% of economically active women in the world report agriculture as their primary economic activity.  Nevertheless, many development initiatives exclude women requiring a minimum piece of land size or that person or that the person who should attend the training should be the head of the farming household, or the owner of the land that is farmed.  These conditions are all biased toward male farmers because women dominate the ranks of poor farmers, they dominate the rank of small-scale farmers and they are unlikely to own the land they farm.”

Rovelo noted with great concern that women and girls constitute the majority of people that are in hunger worldwide reiterating that their equal access to productive resources will improve the condition.

“When we cross this information with disaggregated data, we find that approximately 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls.  In South Asia and East-Asia, 45-60 % of women of reproductive age are underweight, and 80% of pregnant women have iron deficiencies.”

She urged the policy-makers globally to shift from perceiving women as vulnerable, unprotected or victims and instead view then as powerful agents of change.

Rovelo said the concept of making sustainable policies that are only centralised on men is very deadly especially at a time nations are developing a world with "leaving no one behind".

   

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