Agriculture production could be increased and the number of hungry people the world-over reduced by 100-150 million if women in rural areas are provided the same access to farm inputs as men, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said.
"If women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million," the FAO said in the 2010-11 edition of The State of Food and Agriculture report.
It observed that yields on plots managed by women are lower than those managed by men. But this is not because women are worse farmers than men. They simply do not have the same access to inputs, the report said.
If they did, their yields would go up, they would produce more and agricultural production would increase, it said, according to transcripts of the report on the FAO's website.
"Women farmers typically achieve lower yields than men, not because they are less skilled, but because they operate smaller farms and use fewer inputs like fertilisers, improved seeds and tools," said Terri Raney, the editor of the report.
Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30%, the study said.
This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4%, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17%, or 100 to 150 million people, it noted.
An estimated 925 million people in the world were undernourished in 2010, of which 906 million lived in developing countries.
Women make up, on average, 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20% in Latin America to almost 50% in East and South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
The share varies greatly within countries, the study noted.