Hazel Halley-Burnett, head of Women Across Differences in Guyana
(left); and Ruth Spencer, GEF Focal Point for Antigua and Barbuda,
attended the 17th Session of the Committee for the Review of
Implementation (CRIC 17) of the United Nations Convention to Combat
Desertification (UNCCD) in the Guyana capital Georgetown.
Hazel-Burnett and Spencer are two Caribbean champions for gender
equality issues. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS
By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Jan 31 2019 (IPS)
In parts of the world where the gender gap is already wide, land
degradation places women and girls at even greater risk.
The United Nations Convention
to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) framework for Land
Degradation Neutrality (LDN), highlights that land degradation in
developing countries impacts men and women differently, mainly due
to unequal access to land, water, credit, extension services and
It further asserts that gender inequality plays a significant
role in land-degradation-related poverty hence the need to address
persistent gender inequalities that fuel women’s poverty in LDN
Against this background, Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary
General Human and Social Development at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
Secretariat, said gender mainstreaming is very important in all
aspects of sustainable development for the Caribbean.
“We know in agriculture, that on several occasions our women
are very much involved in some of the work and we have to ensure
that they continue to be so, but that the resources are placed at
their disposal to get them to really be fully engaged,” Slater
“I think that at the same time, because we are small
countries, technology that is utilised in agriculture has to be
looked at for us to be most efficient and we need to see how all
genders can get involved.”
He noted that particularly with regards to the training of
agricultural workers and the use of agricultural equipment, there
was too much bias towards the male gender.
He added that more needs to be done to convince young people
that agriculture can provide a good livelihood and women are
capable and should be involved too. Slater spoke to IPS at
Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation
(CRIC17) of the UNCCD in Georgetown, Guyana.
“When conducting training at our agricultural institutions, we
should expect our women to be operating tractors, be managers of
greenhouses. They have demonstrated they can do it, we have to
encourage them to do more of it,” Slater said.
Globally, women comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labour
force, rising to 70 percent in some countries, and UNCCD has cited
the importance of taking gender roles into account when making
policies and laws to promote land degradation neutrality.
In Africa, for instance, 80 percent of agricultural production
comes from smallholder farmers, who are mostly rural women.
Despite their majority in the smallholder agricultural sector,
women typically don’t have secure control over their farmland or
over its productive resources, especially commercially marketable
This lack of control is linked to land ownership rights in rural
areas, which habitually favour men. Women’s access to the land,
meanwhile, is mediated by their relationship to the male owner.
Climate change is a compounding factor in land degradation that
increases uncertainty with regard to women’s production,
accessibility and utilisation of food, as well as in relation to
food systems stability.
Late last year, UNCCD organised a technical workshop on the
Caribbean sub-regional LDN transformative project – Implementing
Gender-Responsive and Climate Smart Land Management in the
The workshop, which was held in St. Lucia, sought to build and
strengthen capacity on gender mainstreaming. It also addressed how
to refine and finalise a project concept note with the involvement
of all key stakeholders prior to seeking financial support from the
Green Climate Fund.
A key focus of the project is to build synergies between the
on-going activities to the LND initiative, and the workshop was
designed to embed gender perspectives in the synergistic
implementation of activities in the Caribbean.
UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut says women are the
first to be affected by the main indirect causes of land
degradation – population pressure, land tenure, poverty and lack
“If you look at all those, generally it’s the women who are
the first target of all those things. It is absolutely abnormal. In
many countries, women do not have any property rights,” Barbut
“So how can you ask a woman who is managing land to manage it
well, to think of the future when the land will never be hers?
That’s a real question.”
As it relates to education, Barbut said women are usually less
educated than men, adding that that is something that also has to
be looked at.
She said UNCCD is highlighting all of these issues in its gender
plan, while stressing the “for very positive action towards
The UNCCD Executive Secretary also pointed to how LDN
interventions can bring positive change to the lives and women and
She cited a planned project in Burkina Faso to transform 3,000
of the country’s 5,000 villages into eco-villages, noting that
this will provide solar ovens and also potable water.
“Just by doing that we are taking out six hours of work of
women because it takes them about three hours per day to go get
food to cook and three hours per day to go get water,” Barbut
“We want to have those women get out of that so that they can
go to agroforestry programmes which will on top of everything give
them revenue. We will make sure that the revenue that they get will
go mainly into education of the children and into health facilities
for both children and women in particular.”
“So clearly, there is a direct link between the consequences
of land degradation and the wellbeing of women in most countries.
It’s not as severe in some countries but in every single country
we see how things change when we empower women on the land
management,” Barbut added.
The UNCCD says gender equality for rural women should include
equal ownership rights to family land since security of tenure
could be a catalyst for grassroots land management prioritising
land degradation neutrality.
It adds that ensuring equality is also about decreasing the
burdens of rural women and enabling them to access vital services
Land degradation and drought affect more than 169 countries
today, with the severest impacts being felt in the poorest rural
Previous estimates projected that by 2025, approximately 1.8
billion people – more than half of them women and children –
would be adversely affected by land degradation and
desertification. These estimates have already been significantly
surpassed, with 2.6 billion affected today.
Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Gender Gap Made Worse by Land Degradation