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Agriculture and Rural Development

Three misconceptions about women in agribusiness that hold companies back

Nathalie Hoffmann's picture
Also available in: العربية

Debunking common misconceptions about women in agribusiness can unlock business opportunities for the private sector

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, global leaders from across the world came together to deliberate on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as agriculture and food security and greater social inclusion. With the global population projected to rise more than 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food expected to jump sharply, the need for addressing the challenges of food security assumes greater urgency than before. There is also a growing need to adopt stronger measures to reduce the gender gap—women shouldn’t have to wait 170 years to bridge the divide.

Ahead of the Davos meeting, IFC released a report on agribusiness, Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains, highlighting how companies can increase productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector by closing economic and social gaps between women and men throughout the value chain, from farm to retail and beyond. The solution to address two of the most pressing challenges—food security and gender parity—isn’t difficult to find, as my research for the report suggests.

Women comprise over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide and play a major role in agriculture; yet they face a variety of constraints, such as limited access to agricultural inputs, technologies, finance, and networks. As the report shows, an increasing number of companies now recognize that investing in women can help increase companies’ bottom lines—while helping improve the lives of people in rural areas.

Yet, despite the clear business rationale, one wonders why more companies aren’t replicating the efforts of successful companies. The answer probably lies in the prevailing misconceptions about women in agribusiness—despite promising business case testimonials for gender-smart investments from multinational companies such as Mondelēz International and Primark.

Agribusiness companies need support in identifying where and how they can close gender gaps in their value chain. A good start would be to debunk those common misconceptions about women in the sector:

A tale of two disasters: Communities connecting and learning from each other

Margaret Arnold's picture
Also available in: 日本語
Community members from Nepal learn how to make paper jewelry crafts from Ibasho-Japan elders.
Community members from Nepal learn how to make paper jewelry crafts from Ibasho-Japan members. 
(Photo: Margaret Arnold / World Bank)
In the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015, Santoshi Rana of Bihani, a social venture working with elderly community members in Kathmandu, noticed that many efforts engaged the youth in relief and recovery activities. “Our elderly were completely left out of the equation, and were treated as passive beneficiaries in need of care.” So she took to the Internet to see what resources she could find. She came across a World Bank-Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) report, “Elders Leading the Way to Resilience,” which assessed the impact of Ibasho café, an elder-led recovery effort in Ofunato, Japan, following the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE) in 2011.

Ibasho: a Japanese approach to community resilience

In Ofunato, elder community members planned and built the Ibasho Café, which serves as a hub to restore the fabric of a community badly damaged by the GEJE disaster. Ibasho Café is an informal gathering place that brings the community together. All generations connect in that space, with children coming to read books in the English library, older people teaching the young how to make traditional foods, younger people helping their elders navigate computer software, etc. With the elderly actively engaged in the operation of the Ibasho café, the place helps build social capital and resilience, while changing people’s mindsets about aging. The café runs as a sustainable business and, over time, has developed a noodle shop, an organic farm, and a farmers market to further support its operation.

In 2014-2015, GFDRR supported the documentation of the Ibasho experience in Japan. Learning about this experience, Santoshi realized the elders and women of her community could also lead the way, and reached out to Emi Kiyota, head of Ibasho, the NGO that facilitated the process in Ofunato.

Advancing women’s land and resource rights

Renée Giovarelli's picture
Photo by Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
Development practitioners know secure land rights for women are important for the well-being of rural families, whether a woman is head of her household or lives in a household headed by a man. We know the research shows that women’s land rights are associated with family improvements, such as:
  • Increases in food expenditures
  • Children less likely to be severely underweight
  • Improvements in child educational achievements
  • Increases in share of expenditures devoted to healthcare
 

In the poorest countries, an acute climate risk

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية | 日本語

A man walks through a flooded rice field. © Nonie Reyes/World Bank

For the first time in history, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen below 10%. The world has never been as ambitious about development as it is today. After adopting the Sustainable Development Goals and signing the Paris climate deal at the end of 2015, the global community is now looking into the best and most effective ways of reaching these milestones. In this five-part series I will discuss what the World Bank Group is doing and what we are planning to do in key areas that are critical for ending poverty by 2030: good governancegender equality, conflict and fragility, preventing and adapting to climate change, and, finally, creating jobs.

Seawater is rising in coastal Bangladesh. The soil contains more and more salt as the sea encroaches on the land. As a result, farmers see their crops declining. Communities are hollowing out, as working-age adults move to cities. Freshwater fish are disappearing, reducing the amount of protein in local diets. And in the dry season, mothers have to ration drinking water for their children – in some areas, to as little as two glasses a day.
 
Climate change is finally being taken seriously in the developed world, but it is generally seen as a future threat, to be managed over the coming years.  For poor people in poor countries, particularly those living along coastlines, in river deltas, or on islands, it is a clear and present danger – and increasingly, a dominant fact of life.

Wonderful Life: Biodiversity for sustaining people and their livelihoods

Adriana Moreira's picture
Francisco "Chico" Mendes (1944 - 1988), Brazilian rubber-tapper and environmentalist, actively involved in protecting the Amazon forest through his advocacy for the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples. Photo credit: Miranda Smith 

As a young scientist, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to research forest fires. After weeks of talking to rural producers, rubber tappers, indigenous peoples and cattle ranchers, I realized that I had to think beyond conservation science and climate change implications to understand the Amazonian landscape. The nexus between people and the rainforest was also important. I came away wanting to help ensure that the value of forests to people, and the value of people to forests remained closely linked and well-recognized.

The loss of biodiversity—which is driven by rapid conversion of habitats and landscapes, the depletion of ocean fisheries, and climate change—is not new. But concern for how to decrease the loss of biodiversity is. We are no longer just scientists and conservationists. The international community now makes the loss of biodiversity central to the global political debate: nations have the responsibility to protect natural assets.

Why investing in forests is money—and time-- well spent

Tone Skogen's picture
Also available in: Português
Togo_Andrea Borgarello / World Bank

It is widely acknowledged that reducing emissions from deforestation could bring about one-third of the greenhouse gas emission reductions we need by 2030 to stay on a 2-degrees trajectory. But protecting and managing forests wisely does not only make sense from a climate perspective.  It is also smart for the economy. Forests are key economic resources in tropical countries. Protecting them would increase resilience to climate change, reduce poverty and help preserve invaluable biodiversity.

Here are just a few facts to illustrate why forests are so important. First, forests provide us with ecosystem services like pollination of food crops, water and air filtration, and protection against floods and erosion. Forests are also home for about 1.3 billion people worldwide who depend on forest resources for their livelihood. Locally, forests contribute to the rainfall needed to sustain food production over time. When forests are destroyed, humanity is robbed of these benefits. 

The New Climate Economy report shows us that economic growth and cutting carbon emissions can be mutually reinforcing. We need more innovation and we need more investments in a low carbon direction. This requires some fundamental choices of public policy, and the transformation will not be easy. However, it is possible and indeed the only path to sustained growth and development. If land uses are productive and energy systems are efficient, they will both drive strong economic growth and reduce carbon intensity.

Already, the world's large tropical forest countries are taking action. 

Nas florestas, uma mudança de atitude em favor dos povos indígenas

Myrna Kay Cunningham Kain's picture
Also available in: Español | English
Girl. Panama. Gerardo Pesantez-World Bank

Em 2015, mais de 500 milhões de hectares de florestas eram posse de povos indígenas. Embora nas últimas décadas a área florestal designada aos povos indígenas e sob sua posse tenha aumentado, os governos ainda administram 60% dessas áreas, e as corporações e agentes privados, 9%. A pressão dos povos indígenas nas últimas décadas tornou possível aumentar em cerca de 50% a área florestal reconhecida como propriedade das comunidades indígenas e a elas designada. A América Latina e o Caribe, onde os povos indígenas controlam 40% das florestas, é a região com maiores avanços. Outras regiões do mundo mostram tendências semelhantes.

Para os povos indígenas, que sempre têm vivido na floresta, ela representa seu espaço de reprodução cultural, produção de alimentos e segurança espiritual. Para os governos e empresas, a floresta contém ativos importantes para a produção de alimentos, desenvolvimento econômico, segurança, mitigação da mudança do clima, sequestro de carbono, água, minerais e extração de gás. A essas percepções divergentes sobre propriedade e uso da floresta somou-se nas últimas décadas a multiplicação de conflitos sobre o controle do território e recursos florestais. Com a crescente demanda internacional de bens primários (minerais, hidrocarbonetos, soja e outros produtos agrícolas básicos), há um maior dinamismo econômico com base em sua exploração. No entanto, isso foi ao custo de graves impactos ambientais, reclassificações espaciais e violações de direitos, interesses, territórios e recursos dos povos indígenas (CEPAL 2014).

Nesse contexto, o que está contribuindo para a mudança de atitude, tanto no nível de país como global, que nos permite concluir que essa situação já começou a se reverter?

For forests, a change in attitude in favor of indigenous communities

Myrna Kay Cunningham Kain's picture
Also available in: Español | Português
Girl. Panama. Gerardo Pesantez-World Bank
In 2015, more than 500 million hectares of forests were held by indigenous peoples.  Despite the increase in forest area designated for and owned by indigenous peoples in recent decades, governments still administer 60 percent of these forest areas while firms and private individuals administer 9 percent. Pressure exerted by indigenous peoples over the past few decades has led to a 50 percent increase in forest areas recognized as being owned or designated for use by indigenous communities. The greatest strides have been made in Latin America and the Caribbean, where indigenous peoples control 40 percent of forest land. Similar trends have been observed in other regions across the globe.  

For the indigenous peoples who have always lived in the forests, these areas represent their space for cultural reproduction, food production, and spiritual security. For governments and companies, forests contain major assets for food production, economic development, security, climate change mitigation, carbon sequestration, water, minerals, and gas extraction. Added to these divergent views on forest ownership and use is the proliferation in recent decades of conflicts over territorial control and forest resources. Growing international demand for commodities (minerals, hydrocarbons, soybeans, and other basic agricultural products) has fueled greater economic activity linked to the development of forest resources. However, this progress has come at a price: adverse environmental impacts, the reclassification of spaces, and the dispossession of the rights, interests, territories, and resources of indigenous peoples (ECLAC 2014).  

In this context, a question arises: What is contributing to the behavioral change, both at the country and global levels, which leads us to conclude that a reversal in the situation has begun?

Mitigating El Niño's impact on water security

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Every 2 to 7 years, the cyclical warming of Pacific Ocean waters triggers a global pattern of weather changes that can be felt across many different parts of the world. This phenomenon, known as "El Niño", translates into intense rainfall and floods in certain areas, and severe drought in others. Due to its impact on precipitation, El Niño can seriously undermine water security, decrease agricultural yields and threaten livestock–putting considerable pressure on the livelihoods of affected communities.
 
Ahead of World Water Day 2016, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist Christoph Pusch explains how the World Bank helps client countries anticipate, respond to, and recover from El Niño-related shocks such as droughts or floods.

Supporting land rights helps us build stronger, more prosperous communities

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Land is an incredibly valuable asset that represents many different things. Land is, first and foremost, a place to call home. For many, it also serves as a critical means of production that they depend on for their livelihoods. Finally, land is inextricably linked to a community's history and culture.
 
Yet, as important as land ownership may be, 70% of the world's population still lacks access to proper land titling or demarcation. This carries a host of negative consequences: when people have to live with the constant threat of potential eviction, they are more likely to remain or become poor, and cannot invest in their land with confidence.
 
Conversely, stronger land rights can be a powerful tool for economic development and poverty reduction. That is why the World Bank is working with client countries to build legal and institutional frameworks that effectively protect land tenure - including for vulnerable groups such as women and indigenous peoples.
 
In this video, World Bank Practice Manager Jorge Muñoz describes in greater depth how the institution is bolstering land tenure around the world as part of its mission to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity.

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