The rapid increases in large-scale of liquid biofuels production in developing countries could exacerbate the marginalization of women in rural areas and threaten their livelihoods, according to a new FAO study.
The document notes that large-scale plantations for the liquid biofuels such production as bioethanol and biodiesel require an intensive use of resources and inputs to which small farmers, particularly women, traditionally have limited access. These resources include land, water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
“Unless developing countries adopt policies to strengthen the participation of small farmers, especially women in biofuel production by increasing their access to land, capital and technology, gender inequalities may become more marked, with As further exacerbate women’s vulnerability to hunger and poverty, “said Yianna Lambrou, co-author of the report entitled Gender and equality in the production of liquid biofuels – Minimize risk and maximize opportunities.
“The production of biofuels,” he said Lambrou, certainly offers opportunities for farmers, but only reach the farm level, especially for women, if implemented policies for the poor while promoting women “.
Pressure biofuel production
The growing global demand for liquid biofuels, combined with increased land requirements, could put pressure on so-called “marginal”, which have a key role in the livelihoods of the rural poor and are frequently farmed by women, according to the report. The conversion of these lands to plantations for biofuels production “might cause partial or total displacement of agricultural activities of women to increasingly marginal lands, with negative consequences on the ability of women to obtain food, according to the study.
The potential depletion or degradation of natural resources associated with large-scale plantations for biofuel production may place an additional burden for the work and the health of farmers, especially for women. If biofuel production competes, either directly or indirectly, by providing water and firewood, can make such resources less readily available for domestic use. This would force women, who are traditionally engaged in most developing countries, for collecting water and firewood, to travel longer distances thus reducing the time available to earn income from other sources.
The report also warned that the replacement of local crops with monoculture devoted to energy production could threaten agro-biodiversity as well as the extensive knowledge and traditional skills of smallholder farmers in the management, selection and storage of crops local, all activities performed mainly by women.
Unequal employment opportunities
The establishment of plantations for biofuel production may create new employment opportunities in rural areas. These opportunities are targeted mainly to low-skilled agricultural workers, who are increasingly employed on a temporary or occasional basis. A growing number of these workers are women (about 40 percent of the total in Latin America and the Caribbean), who due to existing social inequalities tend to be disadvantaged compared to men, the wage level , working conditions and benefits, training and exposure to risks to their safety and health.
The FAO report highlights the need for further research and new data on the socio-economic effects of liquid biofuel production in men and women.
The study calls for a strategy of development of biofuels that are environmentally sustainable and pro-poor, integrating energy crop plantations into existing local agri-food systems, so as to protect traditional agricultural activities, skills and knowledge specialized small farmers, which are crucial for food security and resilience to long-term rural communities.
Measures should be taken to ensure that women and households headed by them have the same opportunities as men to engage in and benefit from the sustainable production of liquid biofuels. This is of great importance when the number of households headed by women is growing, with nearly 40 percent in South Africa and 35 percent in the Caribbean.