Updating the FAO 2011 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report: Evolution of gender in food systems

Addressing gender inequalities and strengthening women’s agency to create more climate resilient and sustainable food systems

Elizabeth Bryan

Climate change affects every aspect of the food system, including all nodes along agriculture and food value chains—from production to consumption. Women and men often have important contributions to make to address climate challenges within food systems; yet structural inequalities limit women’s access to resources, services and agency, and shape the ways in which women and men experience and are impacted by climate change. This background paper for the upcoming FAO Report on The Status of Rural Women in Agri-food Systems 10 Years after the State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 (SOFA) reviews the literature on gender, climate change and agriculture and food systems. It finds strong evidence of gender inequalities in exposure and sensitivity to climate change, adaptive capacities, decision-making over alternative adaptive and policy responses, and wellbeing outcomes of climate change. It identifies a set of promising approaches to address these gender inequalities, including financial products tailored to women’s needs, climate information services targeted to women and group-based approaches for collective climate action. The review concludes that if climate-smart interventions do not adequately take gender differences into account, they might exacerbate gender inequalities in food systems. At the same time, women’s contributions and agency are critical to make food systems more resilient to the negative impacts of climate change, given their specialized knowledge, skills and roles in agriculture and food systems. Thus, increasing the resilience of food systems to climate change requires inclusive approaches that build women’s resilience capacities, facilitate women’s empowerment and address structural inequalities.

Fostering an enabling environment for equality and empowerment in agrifood systems

Els Lecoutere
CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform

Lasting transformative change in agriculture and food systems, and increased societal benefits, requires fostering an environment that enables women’s empowerment and intersectional equality, while reducing existing inequalities in access to and control over productive resources, services and technology, resilience and leadership. Fostering an enabling environment hinges on addressing key structural constraints to equally accessing resources, exercising agency and achieving desirable outcomes across multiple scales in a holistic manner.

This paper discusses the emerging thinking about key structural barriers—at the scales of the state, markets, communities, households and individuals—that are rooted in policy, discriminatory (formal and informal) social and economic institutions (including social norms) and dampened aspirations; and their relevance for transformative change in agriculture and food systems. It shows the trend and current status of key structural constraints, and what has proven effective to relax such constraints. The paper lists key evidence-based recommendations to promote an enabling environment for empowerment and equality in agriculture and food systems.

Beyond crops: Toward gender equality in forestry, fisheries, aquaculture and livestock development

Marlène Elias

The fisheries, aquaculture, forestry and livestock sectors are critical for sustaining rural livelihoods and achieving global food and nutrition security. Yet each of these sectors have embedded gender and social inequalities, hindering people who rely on these livelihood systems from achieving their full potential. In this background paper for the Report on The Status of Rural Women in Agri-food Systems 10 Years after the State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 (SOFA), we review the literature to examine gender gaps in relation to each sector, their implications for achieving multiple food system outcomes, what has worked to reduce inequalities, and the potential these sectors hold for advancing gender equality as an outcome in itself. We demonstrate that, despite specificities across sectors, similar gender barriers limit the benefits women receive from fisheries, aquaculture, forestry and livestock. These constraints, which occur at multiple levels, include: the invisibility and undervaluation of rural women’s labor and their disproportionately heavy labor burdens, limited and precarious control over resources, norms that hinder women’s voice and influence in decision-making and governance, and exclusionary institutions such as resource-user groups and extension and data systems. Drawing on Njuki et al.’s (2021) Gendered Food Systems framework, we demonstrate that, to achieve transformative change in food systems, changes in each sector are required in women’s agency, access to and control over resources, gender norms, and policies and governance. Such changes can improve dietary outcomes, gender equality and women’s empowerment, economic and livelihood outcomes, and environmental outcomes. To conclude, we argue that closing gender gaps across sectors requires multipronged strategies that simultaneously engage these four change pathways to lift structural barriers to inequality.