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How much does the gender gap really cost?

Rachel Coleman's picture

A new report entitled, “The Cost of the Gender Gap in Agricultural Productivity in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda” launched last week at a side-event of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 42nd session calling for policymakers to prioritize closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Africa.  This report was jointly produced by the World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab, UN women and UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative to quantify the cost and specify the gain in closing the gender gap in agriculture.

This launch was positioned on the UN’s International Day of Rural Women – a day dedicated to recognizing that empowering rural women is key to achieving sustainable development. In Sub-Saharan Africa the reality is women form a large proportion of the agricultural labor force, yet gender-based inequalities in access to and control of productive and financial resources inhibit them from achieving the same level of agricultural productivity as men.  

The Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) has been working to generate evidence on how to close the gender gap in agricultural productivity through conducting rigorous impact evaluations. A 2014 GIL report entitled Levelling the Field identified areas to focus our attention in working to close the gap and offered promising policy solutions and emerging new ideas to test.   

The new report expands on  Levelling the Field, to illustrate why this gap matters, showing that closing the gap could result in gross gains to GDP of $100 million in Malawi, $105 million in Tanzania and $67 million in Uganda—along with other positive development outcomes such as reduced poverty, and greater food security.

Taken together, these two reports deliver the motivation of why to close the gender gap and where to focus our efforts. The task now is to design innovative, and above all, cost effective approaches on how we can effectively close the gap.
While achieving these gains would in itself require additional investments from governments, their magnitude is sufficiently large enough to justify significant attention. Policy priorities should be focused on improving the amount of labor available to women, enabling female farmers to grow high value crops and improving access to and use of non-labor inputs.

We still have more to learn about what works and what doesn’t work to address the constraints women face. Innovation, piloting and rigorous evaluation are key because the bottom line is smarter interventions bring us one step closer to closing the gender gap. 

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