Rural Women and Science: Enabling and Excluding Factors Marcela Villarreal, Ph. D

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Rural Women and Science: Enabling and Excluding Factors

  • Marcela Villarreal, Ph.D.

  • Director Gender, Equity and Rural Development Division

  • FAO

  • Women in Science

  • Bibliotheca Alexandrina, October 23-24, 2007

Focus on rural areas essential for effective science

  • Focus on rural areas essential for effective science

  • 75 percent of the world

  • poor live in rural areas

  • Women: Over-represented among the poor

Making Science benefit People

  • Education

  • Health

  • Policy

    • Mechanisms of exclusion

Top Five Causes of Death: U.S.A

Top Five Causes of Death: South & East Asia

Top Five Causes of Death: Africa

Days of work lost to disease, 2005


HIV prevalence in adults in sub-Saharan Africa, 1986-2001

HIV/AIDS affects Food Security

  • Loss of agricultural labour

  • Impoverishment of household

  • Loss of knowledge and skills

  • Social safety nets undermined

Impacts of HIV/AIDS

  • Decline in land cultivated and range of crops

  • Increase in cost of hired labour

  • Deflated land prices

  • Shift to less labour-intensive crops

  • Decreased agricultural productivity

  • Increased malnutrition

  • Increased food insecurity

  • Rural development undermined

Gender and land in sub-Saharan Africa

  • Land rights governed by social institutions such as marriage

  • Male privileges on land

  • Customary prevails over formal

HIV/AIDS impacts on land

  • loss of land rights including inheritance rights

  • shifts in tenure

  • distress sales and shifts in ownership

  • changes in land use:

    • significant decreases in amounts of land cultivated
    • shifts in the types of crops cultivated

Zambia: Household Membership in Cooperatives

Zambia: Average Land Size by Household Type

What to do?

  • Understand mechanisms of exclusion

  • Address them in policy making

  • Link agricultural research with adoption taking into account the specificities of the population: rural, gender, indigenous

  • Safeguard local and indigenous knowledge

  • Formulate specific policy to ensure that rural women will benefit (need data)

Thank you

Agriculture Sector strategy


  • Labour saving technologies and practices

  • Low input agriculture; new varieties

  • Knowledge systems (orphans)

  • Gender issues in particular access to land

  • Nutrition and food interventions

  • Innovative micro-finance activities in the rural sector

  • Capacity building of relevant local and national institutions (including CSOs and MoA)

What to do?

  • Research gender, land and HIV/AIDS in different contexts

  • Promote the formulation, adoption and enforcement of statutory law that ensures gender equality in the access to, ownership of and right to inherit land

  • Ensure equal rights regardless of the type of marriage

  • Improve public policy to reach more effectively the most vulnerable

  • Promote the legal empowerment of rural women and orphans

  • Promote community based approaches that create or reinforce self-esteem and other life skills

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