G20 countries have shown considerable commitment to advancing gender equality
In the heart of India's capital, global leaders and experts gathered in New Delhi from October 9-12, 2023, coming together with a unified agenda: championing women’s leadership and empowerment within the global agri-food systems. Their message was not just a call to action but a clarion call for a strategic realignment in the way the world perceives agricultural leadership.

The International Gender Conference's choice of location was apt. India, with its diverse agricultural practices and rich history of women playing pivotal roles in local agri-systems, provided an ideal backdrop. The theme, 'From research to impact: Towards just and resilient agri-food systems', was a testament to the rising realization of women's integral role in shaping our future agricultural landscape.

This conference, a joint initiative by the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), wasn't just a meet-and-greet of professionals. It was an academic and research-based gathering that aimed to present concrete, actionable insights. The discussion thrived on hard evidence that integrating women at the heart of agricultural policies, projects, and programs isn't just a nod to equality, but a necessity for productivity, food security, and climate resilience.

The timing couldn't have been better. Following the G20 Summit's conclusion, where gender inclusivity, particularly in food security and climate action, emerged as a focal discussion point, this conference provided the depth and academic heft to the earlier deliberations.

One might ask, why this renewed focus on women in agriculture now? While women have always been the backbone of small-scale farming, especially in regions like South Asia and Africa, their contributions have often been invisible, undervalued, or overshadowed. This conference aimed to change this narrative.

Among the many innovative strategies discussed, the role of collectives, such as Farmer Producer Organisations, emerged as a game-changer. Historically, these collectives have been male-dominated, but there's a growing understanding that amplifying women’s access through these channels can have cascading benefits. Not only does it boost their reach to essential resources and markets, but it also positions them as decision-makers, laying the foundation for just and resilient agri-food systems.

Inaugurating the conference, President Droupadi Murmu said that women have been kept outside the agri-food systems for long. She added that they form the bulk of the lowest pyramid of the agriculture structure, but they are denied the opportunity to climb the ladder to assume the role of decision-makers, she explained. 

President Murmu pointed out that India had been witnessing the changes that are needed with women getting more empowered through legislative and governmental interventions.

Speaking at the closing of the International Gender Conference, India's G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said G20 countries have shown considerable commitment to advancing gender equality and women's empowerment and it was now crucial to take action.

Assistant Director General (HRD), ICAR Seema Jaggi was a trough of knowledge. She encapsulated the multifaceted outcomes of the conference, emphasizing the four pillars endorsed by G20 leaders. The priority areas she highlighted were not just strategies but potential revolutions in their own right: the need for heavy investments in food security and nutrition, the urgency to adopt and promote climate-smart methodologies in farming, the necessity of inclusive agricultural value chains that leave no farmer behind, and the untapped potential of digitalization in transforming agricultural practices.

However, any strategy, no matter how comprehensive, is only as good as its execution. And execution requires partnerships. This sentiment was echoed by Country Representative for India and Research Leader of Gender and Livelihoods, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Ranjitha Puskur. "Building bridges between researchers, policymakers, and the private sector is paramount," she opined, stressing that standalone efforts in today's interconnected world are futile. Her vision of an integrated research ecosystem, with heavy engagement from national agricultural research systems, is a roadmap many nations could adopt.

As discussions wrapped up, representatives from global organizations such as CARE USA, GIZ, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, all of which have significant stakes and long-standing involvement in agricultural development, food security, and gender equality, reflected deeply upon the discourse, considering the implications of the findings and deliberating on potential collaborative strategies for the future. They converged on one point: research should transition into tangible, ground-level actions. Their unified call was for solutions specifically tailored to women smallholders, who often juggle multiple roles and face unique challenges.

The four-day international agricultural gender research conference, which comprised 4 plenary sessions, 54 parallel sessions, and 6 poster sessions, brought together delegates from more than 60 countries, deliberating how agricultural gender research can contribute to more resilient and just agri-food systems.

In conclusion, as we stand at the crossroads of mounting food security challenges and climate uncertainties, there's a palpable global consensus: The future of agriculture is inextricably linked to women's empowerment. The world has realized that this isn't just a socio-cultural agenda; it's an economic and environmental imperative. As nations reshape their strategies, it's clear that women will not just be participants, but leaders in this global agricultural revolution.