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All Hands on Deck
What are the top reasons for global hunger? Gender inequality might not be your first answer, but it’s correct. In fact, it's one of the two principal factors behind food insecurity in Africa, according to the 2012 African Human Development Report. (The other is bias against rural areas).
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that it's harder to build a strong economy and provide for all your people if half your workers have one hand tied behind their backs. It was not until recently, however, that there was solid evidence of just how much harder it is.
Analysts at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) looked back at the years 1970-1995, a period of significant decline in child malnutrition. What made this progress possible? A larger supply of available food per person seems like an obvious answer, and this was, in fact, something that helped. But it was responsible for only about 26 percent of the improvement. Gains in women’s education explained 43 percent of it.
The implications are startling. Women's education contributed significantly more to progress against childhood malnutrition than having more food available.
Bread for the World Institute has long emphasized the importance of investing in smallholder farmers. This has not changed. But producing more food to feed a growing population, while critically important, is only one benefit of such agricultural development.
Another is getting resources -- tools, land rights, access to markets -- into the hands of women. Why? Evidence amassed from research in dozens of countries is conclusive: women are more likely than men to spend additional income to improve household nutrition, health care, sanitation, etc.
The Institute's latest essay in the Development Works series, Development Needs All Hands on Deck, offers a closer look at how to boost women's economic empowerment and ensure that they can participate fully in their local and national economies. What are some of the obstacles and how have people been able to succeed despite them? Read our short essay to learn more about this essential component of ending world hunger.
Photo: A key to ending global hunger is enabling women to get jobs that can support their children. Photo by Jim Stipe.
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