Gender in agriculture and agro-processing in Lebanon

According to a study published by ESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), inadequate gender-disaggregated data hinders a full understanding of the role and responsibilities of women in the agricultural sector.

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By  Massoud Derhally Published  September 1, 2002

According to a study published by ESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia), inadequate gender-disaggregated data hinders a full understanding of the role and responsibilities of women in the agricultural sector.

The four-chapter document entitled “Gender in Agriculture and Agro-Processing in Lebanon” assesses the current state of knowledge of gender inequality in agriculture and agro-food processing industries in Lebanon. It also presents the development of policy in this area and identifies areas for relevant future policy research.

Based largely on existing literature and analysis of secondary data, as well as on information from relevant sources in Lebanon, the study reveals specifically that the data on Lebanon regarding the status of women in agriculture and agro-processing is inadequate and relies largely on surveys that vary in their assumptions and use of analytical techniques. It also suggests that accurate data on poverty in Lebanon are not available. As a consequence, available statistics are often inconsistent and therefore cannot provide a reliable basis for comparison.

There is a gender bias in access to resources in the agricultural and agro-processing sectors in the developing countries, including Lebanon. In general, women do not buy or inherit land, especially agricultural land. Women’s access to credit is limited by the unavailability of land title as collateral. Training, extension services and technological innovations do not normally target the needs of women who are seldom encouraged to participate in training activities. As institutional frameworks are not geared to deal with the current situation, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have stepped in with programmes tailored to respond to the needs of women.

According to the study, gender plays an important role in deciding how household income is dispensed. Women tend to spend more of their income on food, education and health. Since women’s loan repayment rate has been traditionally higher than men’s, donor agencies and NGO’s have actively pursued female clients. Group lending has become a common venue for extending credit in both rural and urban areas, especially to women.

The advantages of group lending include a reduction in institutional transaction costs; encouragement of the poor, women in particular, to work in groups for financial and social reasons; and a better repayment record because of peer pressure and group solidarity.

With a view to mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and plans, the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW) was created in 1996. According to the study, although the Commission has already submitted a National strategy on Lebanese Women to the Beijing Follow-up Committee in New York, more efforts should be made to translate this plan into concrete action.

The Commission has identified a series of obstacles facing Lebanese working women, which include discrimination in the workplace, less attractive benefits packages, gender-based stereotyping in the selection of fields of specialization in higher education, and widespread cultural practices.

Chapter I of the study outlines the concept of gender mainstreaming and reviews the issues of gender and food security, data gap, access to resources and services, poverty and rural development and national strategies for women in general and in the agricultural sector in particular.

Chapter II provides a regional overview. Chapter III addresses current economic development, agriculture, gender profile in agriculture and its institutional capacity. Gender differences in agriculture such as legal aspects, work hours, land ownership, finance and services are also highlighted.

Chapter IV draws conclusions, makes recommendations and identifies the prospective requirements for further studies.

The study also underlines the fact that, despite efforts by the national women machinery, agricultural rural development and national and international NGO’s, women still face barriers that are engrained in the psyche of both the male and female population.

Changing the traditional trend that still exists would require a great deal of effort. According to the study, to address gender equality issues successfully at the policy level, it is crucial to provide political support at the highest level and to provide gender-disaggregated statistics for judicious planning.

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