A new report titled “Girls Grow: A Vital Force in Rural Economies” from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs has called for girls and women to be prepared to become “major stakeholders in agriculture and natural resource management”.
The report identifies girls as key to unlocking the full potential of agricultural development in developing countries, and to secure food supplies.
The report argues that rural adolescent girls face a “triple challenge” of rural location, gender and age which restricts their development into the agents of change they could become.
The report provides a seven-step action plan for investing in rural girls. These steps are:
- Expand opportunities for rural adolescent girls to go to school
- Equip rural adolescent girls to be entrepreneurs, workers, and managers in the rural economy and beyond
- Prepare rural adolescent girls to be major stakeholders in agriculture and natural resource management
- Empower and provide opportunities for rural adolescent girls to have an active voice in household, community and national decision making
- Provide rural adolescent girls with comprehensive health information and services
- Improve rural adolescent girls’ safety and security
- Count girls and measure progress
The report pays special attention to how girls uniquely contribute to agriculture. It argues that if women farmers were given the same access to productive resources such as land and water as men, the results could be significant, with he potential for women’s agricultural yields to increase by 20 to 30 per cent, national agricultural output to increase by 2.5 to 4 per cent and the number of undernourished people to reduce by 12 to 17 per cent.
The report goes on to say:
“Girl’s responsibilities at home and on the farm give them unique knowledge of local crop species and environmental conditions, making them natural players in natural resource management. They can become leaders in agricultural research and extension and as entrepreneurs and workers across the agricultural value chain.”