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Investment in girls a must to feed the world

Girls can help reverse poverty and improve food security (© Arne Hoel/The World Bank)
Girls can help reverse poverty and improve food security
© Arne Hoel/The World Bank

Adolescent girls and women are the key to unlocking the full potential of agricultural development in poor countries and ensuring food security, a new report* by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs says. Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies clearly spells out the pivotal role girls could play in driving economic growth and helping meet the world's food needs, if they are offered the tools to enable them to realise their potential.

Despite their enormous contributions in the agricultural sector, rural adolescent girls are undervalued within their societies and often ignored by agricultural development programmes, the report states. But by incorporating girls into national agricultural strategies and assisting them to develop new skills, the report states that adolescent girls will be able to help reverse poverty and improve food security.

The report provides several recommendations in order to empower girls, including the provision of education. Governments were challenged to provide universal primary and secondary education, make schools girl-friendly, appoint more female teachers, increase the number of schools in rural locations to cut down on travelling time, and provide incentives to parents to keep girls in schools through scholarships, cash transfers and elimination of school fees.

The creation of non-traditional extension systems, equipping girls to offer agricultural, health, educational and adult literacy training to their families and communities was another recommendation. The report also calls for marital and inheritance laws to be tackled, which often exclude women from owning land and other critical assets, holding back their productivity.

"Now is the time to invest in rural adolescent girls," says Marshall M Bouton, president of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. "The international community is renewing its commitments to agricultural development, and increasingly women, who make up almost half of the world's agricultural workers, are benefitting. This study finds, however, that progress will only be sustainable if investments are also made in the world's future farmers, entrepreneurs, and managers - rural adolescent girls."

* The report is jointly funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Nike Foundation, and the UN Foundation

Written by: Joseph Ojwang

Date published: November 2011

 

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