A recent study on the cost of a gender gap in agricultural productivity in Africa shows a worrying trend that is bound to impact on the continent’s structural transformation.

Co-published by UN Women, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme, the report dubbed, ‘The cost of the gender gap in agriculture productivity’, provides results of research undertaken since 2015 in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda.

The authors point out that addressing the ‘gender gap’ is expected to lead to economic gains, reduce poverty levels and also improve nutrition in the countries.

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Typically, a male and female farmer with the same plot size farms end up with the woman having access to poorer quality inputs and technology, leading to lower productivity. Also contributing to the gender gap are women’s ‘uncosted’ responsibility to family care, their unpaid labour on family plots run by male relatives, the women’s lack of access to male relative’s labour for her farmland, and the economic consequence of gender violence.

The opportunity cost of doing unpaid care and domestic work also means that women are not free to seek other forms of paid work. This also has an impact of the productive labour supply, notes the report.

Despite saying that there was need for further research to inform targeted policy interventions, the report recommends that countries should focus on the most costly constraints to women’s productivity. ‘These include, female farmer’s low access to additional farm labour; releasing women’s time from unpaid labour; enabling female farmers to grow high-value crops; and improve women’s access to quality input and technology’, the report notes.

According to the report, the annual gender gap is US $100 million for Malawi, US $105 million for Tanzania and US $67 million for Uganda.

Closing the gender gap in Ethiopia, for example, is estimated to lead to a US $182-million increase in agriculture GDP and a US $ 203.5-million increase in total GDP, lifting over one million people out of poverty.

Addressing the gender gap is expected to lead to economic gains, reduce poverty levels and also improve nutrition in the countries.


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