Widespread land degradation threatens food production, water availability, biodiversity and energy security. When land is degraded and usable land becomes scarce, women are uniquely and differentially affected due to their substantial role in agriculture and food production, their reliance on forests, their greater vulnerability to poverty, and their typically weaker legal protections and social status. Across the world, rural women typically work longer hours than men when accounting for paid productive and unpaid reproductive, domestic or care responsibilities. They continue to shoulder most of the unpaid and undervalued work, such as collecting water, cooking, cleaning and caretaking, all while battling the impacts of climate change, unpredictable rainfall, natural disasters and non-yielding gardens.
Women constitute the bulk of people who rely on land in many of the regions most affected by desertification, land degradation and drought. One in three people on earth depend directly on agriculture, while nearly 80% of employed women in least developed countries report agriculture as their primary livelihood. Women are on the frontline struggle to salvage the large area of agricultural land already affected by soil degradation (52%). Food availability fluctuations also impact women’s role in food production and intra-family food distribution, with women often reducing their nutritional intake and that of their children, with dire health consequences.