How Can We #BreaktheBias by Promoting Gender Inclusion in Food Security?

March 8, 2022

woman next to bags of fodder

By Katie Hauser

Katie Hauser is a Private Enterprise Officer at the USAID Bureau for Resilience and Food Security and currently sits on the AgResults Steering Committee.

Women comprise 43% of the global agricultural labor force, playing critical roles in agri-food systems as farmers, service providers, and entrepreneurs.1 Focused efforts to empower women could dramatically benefit entire communities. For example, if women had the same access to land and other productive resources as men, they could increase farm yields by 20-30 percent.2 Such activities could drastically increase productivity and reduce poverty: Closing the gender gap in Tanzania agricultural productivity could lead to 2.1% increase in that agricultural productivity and would lift more than 80,000 people there out of poverty annually over ten years.3

Yet for all this potential, gender gaps in access to resources and opportunities across food systems persist. As much as we need policy change, overcoming these disparities demands that we break down biases that linger in our views, behaviors, and practices. This year, International Women’s Day (March 8) asks us to imagine a world that is free of stereotypes and discrimination. By working collectively, we can #BreaktheBias and create a gender-equal world.

AgResults: Encouraging Higher Inclusion of Women in Tanzania’s Dairy Sector

It can be tough to know what this looks like in practice, but the new U.S. government’s Global Food Security Strategy (GFSS), which guides the Feed the Future initiative, provides a starting point. Covering Feed the Future’s plans for 2022-2026, this document elevates equity and inclusion as key to addressing the biggest global challenges. The GFSS highlights several approaches to integrating gender considerations into programming. I’d like to focus on one in particular: Increasing opportunities for women to access, adopt, and benefit from innovative technologies.

AgResults, a $152 million initiative that includes USAID on its donor committee, uses Pay-for-Results prize competitions to incentivize the private sector to invest in high-impact innovations that will benefit smallholder farmers. The AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Challenge Project provides one possible solution to #BreaktheBias. The competition uses monetary prizes to incentivize private sector actors to sell input bundles accompanied by advisory services to smallholder dairy farmers to increase their adoption of productivity-enhancing inputs. As a prize competition, the project is deliberately solution-agnostic – in other words, it doesn’t require that competitors solve the problem in a specific way.

This means that AgResults does not mandate that competitors do certain things to address gender resource gaps. Instead, the project incorporates nudges, explaining the benefits of working with women along the dairy value chain as smallholder farmers, veterinary professionals, or extension agents. To join the competition, firms submit a gender outreach and action plan. The project’s orientation included gender sensitization training for participating companies. These actions are teaching input businesses the roles that women can and should play to build trust and drive change. With this awareness, they recognize the benefits of women being able to access, adopt, and benefit from innovative technologies that increase dairy productivity. Such efforts may also create more gender-inclusive environments like the GFSS pushes for – and breaking down stereotypes along the way.

Taking a Step to #BreaktheBias

This year, International Women’s Day does more than remind us about the importance of gender equity; it demands that we #BreaktheBias and push for a gender-equal world. I am optimistic that plans like the GFSS and innovative approaches like AgResults can point us in the right direction.

  1. CERES 2030. 2020. Ending Hunger Sustainably: The Role of Gender
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2011). The State of Food Insecurity in the World – Women in agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development. Rome, Italy. http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i2050e/i2050e.pdf
  3. UN Women. 2021. The gender gap in agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa: Causes, costs and solutions. Policy Brief No.11. UN Women: New York
  1. CERES 2030. 2020.
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2011). The State of Food Insecurity in the World – Women in agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development. Rome, Italy.
  3. UN Women. 2021. . Policy Brief No.11. UN Women: New York

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