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Gender Equality Via Wheat Gender Strategy

New Delhi (ABC Live): Wheat gender strategy: Wheat provides 21% of the food calories and 20% of the protein for more than 4.5 billion people in 94 developing countries. Accounting for a fifth of humanity’s food, wheat is second only to rice as a source of calories in the diets of developing country consumers, and it is first as a source of protein.

Wheat is an especially critical staff of life for the approximately 1.2 billion wheat dependent to 2.5 billion wheat-consuming poor— men, women and children who live on less than USD 2 per day— and approximately 30 million poor wheat producers and their families.

In North Africa, Central and West Asia, which includes some of the currently most troubled countries, wheat provides from 35 to 60% of the daily calories. Demand for wheat in the developing world is projected to increase 60% by 2050.

At the same time, climate change-induced temperature increases are likely to reduce wheat production in developing countries by 20–30%. As a result, prices will more than double in real terms, eroding the purchasing power of poor consumers and creating conditions for widespread social unrest. This scenario is worsened by stagnating yields, soil degradation, increasing irrigation and fertilizer costs, and virulent new disease and pest strains.

The WHEAT gender strategy is conceived as part of a process of continual improvement, where the strategy will be revised periodically as additional knowledge becomes available. As such the strategy, at this point in time, outlines the process that is envisioned, but once the initial strategic elements such as gender audit and systematization of existing knowledge has been undertaken, it will be possible to add more detail and specific depth to the process of integrating gender in WHEAT, and thus to the implementation of the strategy.

Objective of this strategy

This strategy document outlines the process and approach that WHEAT has adopted in order to strengthen the integration of gender considerations in wheat R4D. The strategy relates to the three year period 2013 – 2015, and reflects the growing awareness that gender equality and equity are essential elements in the quest to further enhance agricultural growth, food security and sustainable use of the natural resource base.

The objective of the Wheat gender strategy for integrating gender in WHEAT is: To strengthen the capacity to address issues of gender and social differentiation in wheat R4D and ensure that interventions do not exacerbate existing gender disparities, but instead contribute to improved gender equality and transformation of unequal gender norms and rights wherever possible. 1.4 The rationale for integrating gender in WHEAT

The combined challenges of continued population growth, declining agricultural productivity growth and environmental depletion put pressure on agricultural research and development to work on all fronts to further enhance agricultural productivity and food security. Addressing the gender disparities between women and men farmers in the developing world has a significant development potential in itself, and as such is a key element in meeting these challenges.

Although women play a crucial role in farming and food production, they are often disadvantaged and face greater constraints in agricultural production than men.

Rural women are consistently less likely than men to own land or livestock, adopt new technologies, access credit or other financial services, or receive education or extension advice . In some cases, they do not even control the use of their own time. The FAO 2011 State of Food and Agriculture report, estimates that if women had the same access to production resources as men, they could increase yields on their fields by 20-30%.

The FAO calculates that this alone would raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 %, and that this, in turn, could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17% or 100-150 million people (FAO 2011). In addition to this, improvements in gender equality tend to enhance economic efficiency and improve other development outcomes, e.g. family food and nutrition security and education.

Finally, gender equality is also a development objective in itself: Just as reduction in income poverty or ensuring greater access to justice is part of development, so too is the narrowing of gaps in well-being between men and women.

Nevertheless, despite the strong evidence base and convincing arguments, addressing gender inequality can be arduous and require great resourcefulness. Gender differences are particularly persistent when rooted in deeply entrenched gender roles and social norms, and WHEAT faces a special challenge in this regard in several of its main target regions.

About Dr. Sriniwas Vasudeva

Dr. Sriniwas Vasudeva has completed his Research in Agriculture in 2006 and Reports Agriculture News for ABC Live.

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