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Substantial gains have been made over the past 30 years in enhancing agricultural productivity in developing countries. In the 1980s alone, food production increased by 39 per cent. The record is not, however, as impressive in terms of food production per capita, which increased by only 13 per cent in the same decade, and declined in 75 developing countries, representing three quarters of those in Africa, two-thirds of those in Latin America, and half the countries of Asia (Pinstrup-Andersen, 1994). There is a continuing need to raise agricultural output and productivity in developing countries, both to ensure food availability and to raise the incomes of the large number of rural people who are poor and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, so that they have better access to food and other necessities which they currently lack. Women represent a large and significant group of farmers who, so far, have been relatively neglected in attempts to raise farmer productivity. This is because development planners and policy makers, as well as agricultural research scientists and programme implementors, are mostly unaware of the roles women play in agriculture, the contributions they make and their potential for raising farm production. This paper attempts to draw attention to women's roles in agriculture and to improve understanding of their capabilities and constraints so that policies and programmes can be better designed to assist them.


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