Does Gender Inclusion Really Matter in Sustainable Food Systems?

Does Gender Inclusion Really Matter in Sustainable Food Systems?

Sarah Edore Edewor (Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria) and Agatha Osivweneta Ogbe (Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2599-9.ch011
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Over the past decades, the food systems in developing countries have transformed rapidly. However, the rise in social inequalities has negatively affected, the vulnerable groups as the benefits associated with these transformations are still skewed. This chapter examined the role of gender inclusiveness in promoting sustainable food systems. Employment trends revealed that agricultural employment was higher among males. Five asymmetries (assets, access to agricultural market, access to technology, resilience and risks, and decision making) were identified as limitations to sustainable food systems stemming from the gender differentiated roles. The gender action learning system methodology was adopted using strategies such as empowering men and women through community action learning during catalyst workshops, gender mainstreaming for innovation and institutional change at organizational level, and through advocacy network for policy improvement at the national level. The study concluded that gender inclusion played a crucial role in achieving sustainable food systems.
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Globally, men and women play critical but distinct roles in productive activities. Findings has revealed that women account for over 50% of those contributing to food production (FA0, 2011; Doss, 2014; Akter et al., 2017) either directly or indirectly (through the provision of about 60% of agricultural labour force), despite the fact that they engage in other activities related to taking care of the home and their children (International Labour Organisation [ILO], 2016).

Women have had less access to productive inputs such as land and capital as compared to what is obtainable among men due to several factors and they are also not opportune in decision making relating to agricultural resource inputs use (Afolabi, 2008). These factors could be economic, social, political or cultural in nature. Some of the limitations are due to the inheritance pattern, cultural norms and productive or child bearing roles amongst others. In Nigeria, the pattern of inheritance is patrilineal and in some parts of the country, widowed or divorced women are sometime threatened with dispossession (Small, 1997). In the northern part of Nigeria, a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to take all her personal property, inclusive of land and landed property (Uzodeke, 1993).

Land ownership varies across various ethnic groups in Nigeria. For instance among the Edos (Benin people), the land tenure being practiced is ‘primogeniture’ in nature, this implies that the first son inherits the land upon the death of the landowner. Similarly, in the south-western part of the country in some chiefdom among the Ekitis, Ijeshas and Ondos, a regent who is usually the first daughter of the immediate deceased chief or king is appointed during a period of interregnum. This position confers authority on all matters including land management, including family, stool or community lands (Adegboye, 1993; Aluko, 2001).

Women in rural areas have been known to play crucial roles in achieving all the food security pillars: availability, access and utilization from production on the family farms through distribution within the household and to food preparation. However, these roles are generally undervalued and constrained by the limitations faced by the women due to access to resources, services as well as labour market opportunities. Findings (Folbre, 2006; Kabeer, 2012) have shown that in most regions of the world, the bulk of unpaid labour in both the care economy (child care, cleaning, and caring for the sick and elderly, fetching water and wood, purchasing and preparing food,)and agricultural production is performed largely by women.

In 2018, evidence revealed that women still had limited access to education, insecure land rights and had less political representation (FAO, 2018). The Global Gender Gap Report (2016) by the World Economic Forum reported that gender disparity between men and women is on the increase and in order to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls (United Nations, 2015), it then becomes necessary to end all forms of discrimination against women by empowering them. Gender equality is not just a fundamental human right; it will help improve the food production systems since women account for a large proportion of those involved in the various segments of the food production system (FAO, 2011).

Gender systems are complex and highly diverse. Mason and Smith (2003) reported that they are determined by community values and norms. The nature and extent of gender inequity as well as the necessary conditions to empower women vary across communities, countries and regions (Jejeebhoy & Sathar, 2001; Alkire et al., 2013; Akter et al., 2017). For instance in South East Asia, women are generally more empowered compared with women in other developing regions (Mason & Smith, 2003; IFAD, 2013).

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