In conversation with Gilbert Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development

With agriculture forming the basis of our Topical Focus in the February edition of Asia Outlook, we spoke with Gilbert Houngbo – the former Prime Minister of Togo and current President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Our conversation analyses the impact of agricultural empowerment in India, a country where 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas and nearly half of its people work in the farming industry and its related sectors.

For the full interview, keep an eye out for the next issue of Asia Outlook. In the meantime, here's Houngbo on the importance of female empowerment in rural regions:

"IFAD has been at the forefront of promoting gender equality in rural communities, with a focus on transformative and long-lasting results. Our programmes and projects help rural women grow more food, connect to markets, increase their incomes, and become more financially literate and skilled. Investment in women is not just a social good, it also makes economic sense. Women makeup 43 per cent of the global agricultural labour force but have less access than men to the financing, land rights and inputs that would help them farm more successfully and move out of poverty. Giving women the same access to productive resources as men would increase their farm yields by an estimated 20 to 30 per cent, reducing the number of hungry people by as much as 100-150 million.

"IFAD supported projects in India have strengthened women’s access to financial services and markets while also building their social capital and enhancing their role in decision-making. When rural women are economically and socially empowered, they become a potent force for change because women reinvest their resources in their communities, in their children, in the environment and in our future. In India we have had some of the strongest gender transformative projects.

"During my recent visit to the country I had the opportunity to meet the community representatives of the Tejaswini Rural Women’s Empowerment Programme in Maharashtra, which closed nearly two years ago. The Programme worked with poor rural women to improve their living conditions, build their skills and improve household nutrition and incomes. As a result, the project had empowered more than one million rural women.  I was impressed to see that they have continued to carry out income-generating activities and that women’s groups continue to access credit with national banks. This only reaffirms our belief that empowerment of women has lasting benefits and impact."