The secret to cutting global hunger rates around the world? Hello, ladies.
There's a pretty simple way we could be feeding an additional 150 million hungry people around the world.
It's not through some super advanced technology or billion-dollar idea that someone just came up with. The answer has been right in front of us for a very long time:
Women. Women farmers are a secret weapon to fighting hunger.
How do I know? Because they're already doing it!
Women produce half of all the food in the world – up to 80% in some countries. But most people wouldn't know it.
After all, a woman isn't the most common image that comes to mind when picturing a farmer.
Maybe it's time for it to be?
In the developing world, rural women farmers are the foundation of their local economies. Aside from being the primary caregivers of their children and in charge of domestic responsibilities, women also, on average, make up 43% of an area's agricultural labor force. Ladies get things done.
Women farmers pull their weight – but they don't have the same access to the land, agricultural training, livestock, financial services, and equipment as men do.
Yields for women farmers are 20% to 30% lower than for men because they have less access to the services, tools, and information as their male counterparts. When it comes to owning land, women make up only 3% to 20% of all landholders, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
The world could look so different if that wasn't the case.
Sub-Saharan Africa is a perfect example of how empowering female farmers could create significant change.
Women make up nearly 50% of the agricultural labor force there, but the region also has the highest prevalence of hunger in the world. Increasing women's access to the agricultural tools they need would help them to be more productive, reduce hunger, and lift themselves out of poverty. Just look at Kenya.
When The Adventure Project worked with Kenyan women to provide access to better irrigation pumps, the increased productivity and income that resulted was astounding. Each farmer was able to grow enough to sell produce to 50 community members, and their increased earnings allowed them to send their children to school for the first time.
One irrigation pump was enough to lift a Kenyan family out of poverty and into the middle class. That's amazing.
Unfortunately, there are still many areas where traditional laws and cultural norms get in the way of women farmers being able to reach their full potential. It's not uncommon for women to be forbidden to own and inherit land, obtain credit, or play such a large role in the field. Those limitations and, as a result, missed opportunities are exactly why gender equality is front and center in the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals.
If women farmers were simply given the same access to resources as men, the number of undernourished people could drop by 100 million to 150 million around the world.
That's like the population of Russia, people. That's a lot of mouths being fed that weren't before.
Closing this gender gap would change the world by providing for more food where it's needed and improving global nutrition security — including in the United States.
The world misses out when women are held back. The data is there, and their impact is real. Women farmers just need an equal shot.