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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


Women’s role in the economy has often been underestimated, and their work in agriculture has long been invisible. While policymakers have targeted population, health, and nutrition programs to women in their reproductive roles, they have neglected women as productive agents. This approach, however, is changing. In the decade since the 1985 World Conference on Women in Nairobi, Kenya, new research has highlighted the crucial role of women as farm managers and farm workers all over the world. Growing evidence shows that income in the hands of women contributes more to household food security and child nutrition than income controlled by men. Such knowledge about women’s key role in food security is essential to the design and implementation of effective programs to enhance their potential. The Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing, China, in September 1995, provides a milepost for assessing women’s progress in the last decade, taking stock of current knowledge, and building on this knowledge to guide future policies.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) places a high priority on research to improve the understanding of women’s roles in agriculture and food security. IFPRI’s work in this area started with a series of studies on the effects of agricultural commercialization on women’s income, food consumption, and household and child nutrition. Now, through a multicountry research program called “Strengthening Food Policy through Intrahousehold Analysis,” IFPRI researchers are examining the processes of family decisionmaking to learn how resources are allocated within the household. This research aims to inform the design and implementation of more effective food policy by taking into account how women’s access to and control over productive resources, stakes in development and food security, and responses to development incentives differ from those of men.

This food policy report synthesizes current research about the roles that women play in ensuring food security in the developing world. It presents evidence on women as food producers, as providers of food to the household, and as contributors to household nutrition security. In so doing, it offers concrete proof that reducing gender disparities by increasing women’s physical and human capital promotes agricultural growth, greater income for women, and better food and nutrition security for all.