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close this bookWomen: The Key to Food Security - Food policy report (IFPRI, 1995, 28 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInternational Food Policy Research Institute
View the documentPreface
View the documentThree Pillars of Food Security
View the documentWomen and Agricultural Production
View the documentWomen and Economic Access to Food
View the documentWomen and Nutrition Security
View the documentConclusion and Recommendations
View the documentNotes

Three Pillars of Food Security

Eight hundred million people in the developing world currently face food insecurity, and the challenge of meeting their food and nutritional needs is likely to become greater in the years ahead. Population growth, urbanization, and the limited potential for increasing production through the expansion of cultivated area imply that for food needs to be met in the future, yields will have to increase. While agricultural research continues to develop new varieties with higher yields and increased tolerance to unfavorable environmental conditions, an untapped source of agricultural growth could lie in reducing the bias against women in agriculture.

The three central ingredients, or pillars, of food security are food availability, or adequate food production; economic access to available food; and nutritional security, which often depends on the availability of nonfood resources such as child care, health care, clean water, and sanitation. Women play significant, if not dominant, roles in supplying all three ingredients necessary to achieve food security in developing countries. But women play these roles in the face of enormous social, cultural, and economic constraints.

This report brings together the latest evidence on the key roles that women play in maintaining the three pillars of food security and examines ways to strengthen the pillars through policies and programs that enhance women’s abilities and resources to fulfill their roles. A more equal distribution of existing resources between women and men can improve food security, but even greater gains can be achieved by addressing the specific constraints women face. By alleviating these constraints and leveling the agricultural playing field, such policies and programs will substantially contribute to meeting world food needs and sharply reducing the numbers of malnourished and food insecure people in developing countries.