A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reveals that closing the gender gap in farm productivity and wage disparity in agrifood systems could boost global gross domestic product (GDP) by 1 percent, equivalent to nearly $1 trillion. Agrifood systems encompass various stages of food production, storage, transportation, processing, distribution, and consumption of both food and non-food agricultural products. Titled Status of Women in Agrifood Systems, the report was presented during the Women Deliver Conference held in Kigali on July 18. The report highlights that closing the gender gap in food systems could reduce global food insecurity by about 2 percentage points, thereby alleviating 45 million people from food insecurity. It states, Agrifood systems are a crucial source of livelihood for women in many countries and serve as a significant employment opportunity for young women, particularly those aged between 15 and 24. In sub-Saharan Africa, 66 percent of women's employment is in agrifood systems, compared to 60 percent for men. However, the report reveals that women still face disparities in accessing land, resources, services, finance, and digital technology, all of which are essential for working in agrifood systems. Furthermore, it states that 50 percent of countries have low levels of protection for women's land rights, and men hold greater ownership or secure tenure rights over agricultural land in 40 out of 46 countries. The report also emphasizes that female-managed farms exhibit 24 percent less productivity in terms of land compared to male-managed farms of the same size. ALSO READ: Women Have the Power to Transform Agriculture It asserts, Women engaged in agricultural production often work under highly unfavorable conditions, and points out the slow progress in narrowing gaps in women's access to irrigation and livestock ownership. Additionally, the report highlights that women in agriculture face significant limitations in accessing inputs such as improved seeds, fertilizers, and mechanized equipment compared to men. While 75 percent of agricultural and rural development policy documents from 68 countries acknowledge women's roles and challenges, only 19 percent include gender-related policy goals. The report suggests that if development interventions focusing on empowering women reached half of small-scale producers, it would substantially increase the incomes of an additional 58 million people and enhance the resilience of an additional 235 million people. It explains, Gaps can be reduced through a combination of implementing reforms in land registration, increasing land rights awareness, providing access to community-based legal aid, and promoting women's participation in local land institutions, adding that digital tools and information and communications technology can aid in closing multiple gaps. Jennet Kem, the UN Women Country Representative in Rwanda, emphasized the importance of addressing gender inequalities and empowering women throughout the entire agrifood system, from production to distribution and consumption. She stated that this is crucial in reducing hunger, promoting economic growth, and strengthening resilience to shocks. We are eager to collaborate with the Rwandan government to build upon the commitments made to tackle persistent issues faced by women in agriculture, such as access to finance, societal and cultural norms, and the unequal burden of care work, she added. Ildephonse Musafiri, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, believes that achieving gender equality and closing the gender gap in food systems can contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. He stated, We need public policies that go beyond mere recognition of gender gaps. The challenges women face in agrifood systems are not just women's issues; they are societal issues that impact us all. Musafiri mentioned that in Rwanda, the percentage of women-headed households with access to improved seeds has risen from 27 percent to 36 percent, and there has been a significant increase in access to organic and inorganic fertilizers. These gains highlight the effectiveness of initiatives aimed at improving women's access to crucial agricultural inputs, he said. Despite these advancements, Musafiri acknowledged that gender disparity still persists due to limited purchasing power, high input costs, longer distances to markets, and the effects of climate change. ALSO READ: Women look to sustainable agriculture for empowerment He emphasized the need for financial inclusion, expressing concern over the significant decline in loans for women. Rwanda is a signatory to multiple conventions advocating for gender equality, aiming to develop policies that address the gaps and challenges faced by women smallholder farmers. Jean Chrysostome Ngabitsinze, the Minister of Trade and Industry, stressed the importance of aligning the development of the agro-processing industry with efforts to close the gender gap. While women are primarily engaged in production along the value chains, men tend to have greater access to the market. Women's wages remain low despite spending hours in production, he observed.