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Report: Ag training for girls could increase productivity in developing countries

The United States and other donor countries could increase agricultural production in developing countries by providing more services to adolescent girls, according to a report released today the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“Adolescent girls must be a key part of successful agricultural and rural economic development strategies, as they are many of the world’s future farmers, rural leaders, decision makers, and mothers,” said the report, entitled “Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies.”

Many of the developing world’s 283 million rural adolescent girls live in poverty, are involved in agriculture, carry heavy work burdens, have limited access to health services, “but only a tiny fraction of international aid dollars is spent — and spent effectively — on needs specific to adolescent girls,” the report said.

The report recommends adolescent girls be incorporated into country‚Äźwide agricultural development plans, have more opportunities to receive agricultural skill building, participate in rural peer groups, have greater access to agricultural inputs and credit, and be included in natural resource management programs dedicated to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

It also suggests that donors help countries change land tenure laws so that inheritance laws are more equitable.

“Donors and government throughout the world have started to do more than just giving lip service to women and girls but they have only just started with action,” Catherine Bertini, the lead author of the report, said in a telephone interview from London, where the report was released.

“We want to encourage them to do much more. Only 2 percent of overseas development aid can be defined as allocated to adolescent girls,” said Bertini, a former executive director the U.N. World Food Program, who is now a professor at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University and a senior fellow at the Chicago Council.

Bertini said other programs that could help adolescent girls in Third World countries improve their lives and increase agricultural productivity would be internships at agro dealers, vocational education, basic training in food processing, and establishing small sewing co-ops where they could make school uniforms.

Girls could also be trained to become agricultural extension workers, she said, particularly to work with other young women who are farming.

“Girls in school know their communities, they can pinpoint where girls are farming, give them information on seeds and where to plant,” Bertini said.

The report was funded by the Nike Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations Foundation. It is part of a larger Chicago Council Girls in Rural Economies Project.

Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies