New UN study highlights womens role in restoring drylands

The world’s rural women can play a crucial role in efforts to restore drylands, according to a new study released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at a major UN conference on women and desertification being held in Beijing this week.The report entitled, “Gender and Desertification: Expanding roles for women to restore drylands,” highlights the role of women in managing natural resources and the disempowering constraints they face while dealing with desertification of land.Desertification is a process of land degradation in dryland areas, which is caused by poverty, unsustainable land management and climate change. Experts say it affects women and men differently due to their “strictly gendered division of labour.”Through their daily work, rural women have acquired extensive knowledge on managing natural resources, which enable them to play a crucial role in combating desertification, according to the report’s authors who note that women often do not have decision-making authority and thus are excluded from dryland development projects.“We need to have a long-term focus on women affected by desertification, extending beyond this International Year of Deserts and Desertification,” said Sheila Mwanundu, an IFAD official responsible for technical advice. “Women need to be empowered to take control of their own lives and their own development.”According to IFAD, currently one-third of the earth’s land surface is threatened by desertification, a phenomenon that poses a risk to the survival of over one billion people in more than 100 countries. Over the past 23 years, the UN agency has spent over $3 billion to support dryland development projects in a number of developing countries.

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