In many developing countries, women make up 50 percent or more of the agricultural labor force; however, women also often face an array of socio-economic conditions that place them at a disadvantage compared to men in local and international food systems.

The WTO Public Forum focusing on inclusive trade was held on September 27- 29. IFPRI organized a session at the event on International value chains in agriculture: challenges and opportunities to address gender inequalities. This working session reviewed the existing and potential impacts of agricultural liberalization efforts on global and regional gender inequality. Specific examples were discussed in terms of both public and private governance, and a number of conclusions, policy recommendations, and gender‑sensitive interventions were proposed to guarantee inclusive international agriculture value chains.

IFPRI researchers presented a series of presentations on the critical role that women play in the global food system. A common message coming from three studies is that women face additional barriers to integration and participation in agricultural value chains and agricultural trade. All the studies conclude that there is a need for domestic and international trade policies to place a greater emphasis on gendered aspects and gender equality.

Dr David Laborde, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, discussed “Grasping the fruits of agricultural trade liberalization: opportunities and challenges for Women.” The presentation highlighted that women generally have lower agricultural productivity due to lower access to inputs and human capital, and that greater emphasis from governments and development partners on integrating and including women farmers in agricultural value chains and trading systems is needed to overcome these constraints. Agricultural and trade policies need to support women in overcoming specific trade, productivity, and scaling-up barriers. The presentation emphasised that there is no one solution to addressing these barriers and that solutions need to be tailored to local social, economic, and cultural contexts.

Tanguy Bernard, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, focused on two case studies that show the gender-related structures of agricultural value chains in Africa south of the Sahara. Women farmers in this region consistently produce less per hectare than their male counterparts due to differential access to labor, inputs, and information. For instance, women farmers in Ethiopia and Malawi produce 23 percent and 25 percent less than men, respectively. The case studies illustrate that women may value different types of incentives than men and that women’s earnings are dedicated to different types of spending than men’s earnings; these findings should be considered when designing agricultural and trade policies. One case study examined the daily delivery of a micronutrient-fortified product for children in a small dairy unit in Northern Senegal; research shows that large positive effects on children’s health are found where women have better control over milk revenues. The second case study highlighted different spending responsibilities across Africa south of the Sahara, highlighting that men are generally responsible for large expenses and have access to larger amounts of financing, while women are generally responsible for smaller expenses related to daily needs.

Bart Minten, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, presented research on “Inclusive international agricultural value chains: the case of coffee in Ethiopia,” which investigated the effects and extent of the adoption of sustainable coffee certification in Ethiopia on the livelihoods of smallholders. The presentation emphasized that the adoption of sustainable certification standards, such as the Sustainable Agriculture Network Standards, can help support efforts to fight gender inequality by prohibiting discrimination against workers on the basis of gender.

In Ethiopia, women compose the majority of agricultural labor, and around 4 million farmers derive income from coffee sales. However, in coffee-producing systems, men are generally engaged in most coffee production activities and control most of the income, while women generally contribute to harvesting and post-harvesting activities. The study compares the premiums/income farmers receive from exports, comparing those that are certified with those that are not certified. The study finds that the certified coffee exports achieved, on average, a 7 percent premium per year from 2006 to 2014. However, only 33 percent of this premium went to the producer/farmer due to overhead costs (union costs, certification costs, etc.), cooperative use of premiums (investments in communal assets such as schools, roads, etc.), and the repayment of debts. Based on these results, the study concludes that there is little financial incentive for a farmer to adopt sustainable certification and that this explains the relatively low certification rates in Ethiopia. Thus, while these programs can theoretically improve gender equality in agricultural systems, uptake of the programs needs to be improved for these improvements to be realized on the ground.

The program also featured presentations from Toya Narayan Gyawali (Joint Secretary, Planning and International Trade Cooperation Division, Ministry of Commerce, Government of Nepal) and Pratap Singh Birthal (Principal Scientist, National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP), New Delhi, India).

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