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Women in agriculture issues raised at UN commission

Rajiv Shah
Rajiv Shah
Several Americans raised issues about the situation of Third World women in agriculture at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York this week.

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah released a “Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index,” and USAID described it as “the first-ever measure to directly capture women's empowerment and inclusion levels in the agriculture sector.”

The index was developed jointly by USAID, The International Food Policy Research Institute and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative of Oxford University. Shah said the index would be used to evaluate the impact of USAID's Feed the Future programs.

Ann Tutwiler
Ann Tutwiler
Ann Tutwiler, an American who serves as deputy director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, said in a speech that rural women could increase production and alleviate hunger if they are given the same access to fertilizer and other inputs as men.

“Female farmers produce less than male farmers because they do not have access to seeds, tools, fertilizer and credit, not because women are worse farmers,” she said.

Tutwiler, speaking for FAO, the international Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program, called for legal reforms to ensure women’s full economic rights, equal access to education, training, information and extension services, access to labor-saving technologies, and full participation in decision-making.

Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the World Food Program who is now a professor at Syracuse University and a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, presented recommendations from the Chicago Council’s recently published report, “Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies.”

Bertini was a member of the U.S. delegation, which was led by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer.