Photo Credit: CARE Vanuatu
Women play a prominent role in agricultural production throughout the Pacific. Whether this is in subsistence farming to feed their immediate families or growing cash crops for income, women’s agricultural labour is an indispensable part of food production and consumption practices in the region.
The ways in which Pacific Island women participate in agriculture varies by island and local cultural norms, yet women’s critical contributions in planting, tending, and harvesting crops and edible marine life sustain the majority of families throughout the region.
The Pacific Community (SPC) partnered with the Food and Agriculture Association (FAO) to conduct country gender assessments in agriculture and rural sectors (CGA-ARS) in five Pacific island countries, namely Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. The assessments were aimed at improving understanding of the gender perspective in rural livelihoods in order to develop effective strategies to support food security, nutrition, and the resilience of Pacific islanders. More importantly, the assessments were conducted with the intention to inform national level planning and programming in agriculture including fisheries, natural resources and rural development.
The CGA-ARS are also in line with the project on Progressing Gender Equality in the Pacific (PGEP), aimed at supporting the generation of knowledge and evidence to inform decision making, and the development of gender policies and gender mainstreaming across sectors.
Among the common findings in the five Pacific island countries assessed, it was found that while Pacific women played a considerable role in agriculture and rural livelihood, their potential was not fully developed because of a lack of recognition of their contribution to the sector. For example, in the majority of cases, men’s work such as clearing land, ploughing, planting and harvesting of crops etc in rural livelihood was more likely to be paid whereas 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.
Another common finding was that mainstreaming of gender perspectives in agriculture and other rural sectors were not routinely practiced. Findings across the five countries showed that while agriculture policy frameworks included some commitment towards gender equality, resources were not allocated to implement these policies or commitments. As a result, organisational culture is not as supportive to mainstream gender, and technical capacity to mainstream gender remains very limited with resources for supporting women in agriculture or for implementing gender-responsive agriculture programs being resourced by projects (donors) instead of core government budgets.
To progress gender equality and social inclusion, and support the empowerment of rural women through policy, programming and organisational strengthening, recommendations from the assessments include:
- Increasing knowledge on women’s role and needs in agriculture and rural sectors through improved collection of data disaggregated by sex, age and rural/urban; and conducting systematic gender and social analysis of relevant legislations and policies;
- Implementing gender-responsive policies, programs and services by adopting and implementing gender mainstreaming strategies in key ministries providing services in the rural sector; designing gender-responsive policies for food security, climate change adaptation and disaster-risk management that support women’s livelihood activities; and strengthening the capacity of ministries involved in rural sector development to mainstream gender and social inclusion across policies, programs, budgets, and services, including through extension services; and
- Supporting the empowerment of rural women in all their diversities and protect their rights by increasing participation of rural women in decision-making and the management and governance of natural resources; and supporting the economic empowerment of rural women by improving their access to technical support, extension services, technologies, and transport and increasing investment from government and the private sector in supporting cultural industries and small-scale farming and fisheries.
By developing the potential of women in the rural sector and recognising the contribution of women towards agriculture, the Pacific stands to promote sustainable development, strengthen women’s leadership, improve food and nutrition security and help increase rural women’s incomes so they can better meet their needs.