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Women's agriculture role "under recognised"

A report examining women’s role in agriculture in five Pacific island nations including Samoa has concluded their contributions are significant but “under recognised”.

The report, which was based on country gender assessments conducted in the agriculture and rural sectors of five Pacific island states, was collated by the regional organisation Pacific Community [S.P.C.] in partnership with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation [F.A.O.].

The five Pacific island nations are Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The assessments were aimed at improving understanding of gender's role in agriculture in rural neighbourhoods, in order to develop effective strategies to support Pacific countries’ food security, nutrition, and resilience.

The assessments were done with the aim of informing national planning for the agriculture and  fisheries sectors as well as the development of rural resources.

It is also in line with the Project on Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific [P.G.E.P.], aimed at supporting the generation of knowledge and evidence to inform decision making, and the development of gender policies and gender mainstreaming across sectors.

Releasing a statement to announce the findings of the report, the SPC said women’s agricultural labour is an indispensable part of food production and consumption practices in the region.

“Women play a prominent role in agricultural production throughout the Pacific,” the regional organisation said in a statement. 

The ways in which Pacific Island women participate in agriculture varies by island and local cultural norms. Women also made critical contributions to planting, tending, and harvesting crops and edible marine life in order to sustain the majority of their families throughout the region. 

Among the common findings in the Pacific island countries assessed, it was found that while women played a critical role in agriculture and rural livelihoods, their potential was not fully developed.

For example, in the majority of cases, men’s work such as clearing land, ploughing, planting and harvesting of crops in rural livelihood was more likely to be paid. 

And women who were more involved in activities such as weeding, watering and maintenance of gardens – in addition to providing care to family members including cleaning and cooking – were not paid.

Findings across the five countries showed that while agriculture policy frameworks included some commitment towards gender equality, they were not backed by resources. As a result, the organisational culture in the surveyed countries is not as supportive of improving gender, and technical capacity.

To progress gender equality and social inclusion, and support the empowerment of rural women through policy, programming and organisational strengthening, a range of suggestions were made.

These included increasing knowledge on women’s role and needs in agriculture and rural sectors and analysing policies. 

Designing policies that responded to gender needs for food security, climate change adaptation and disaster-risks was also recommended. 

Supporting rural women in decision-making and the management and governance of natural resources was one of the key recommendations of the S.P.C.

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