HER+: Harnessing Equality for Resilience in the Agrifood System


Gender and social inequalities are deeply entrenched within our global agrifood system. Although women are critical agents in the system, comprising 43% of agricultural workers, the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 135 years to close the gender gap. The COVID-19 crisis has reversed gains in gender equality, while intensifying climate-related stresses disproportionately harm women. Structural forces disempower women and other social groups, preventing them from accessing resources, technologies and services, and better and more supportive markets, policies, and governance institutions, and constraining their decision-making powers.

These issues are compounded by several challenges within agrifood systems. Agricultural innovations are predominantly technical in nature, mostly operationalized in isolation from other innovations or levers, and fail to respond adequately to the needs of women and other marginalized people. Digital innovations in food systems offer great potential, yet they often reflect and reinforce gender gaps. Women’s involvement in decent work, through which they can earn a stable, living wage and are free from harassment, is significantly constrained. And while promising, gender transformative strategies lack evidence on enabling women as innovators in production and in markets and lack focus to date on leveraging change beyond the household.


This Initiative aims to pinpoint effective strategies to achieve gender equality and social inclusion across the global agrifood system.

This includes interventions and outcomes that foster empowerment; lead to greater technology adoption and livelihood security by bundling socio-technical innovations; build resilience by leveraging large-scale social protection programs; and make governance and public investment inclusive, transparent, and efficient. Together with partners, it will support women, youth, and marginalized groups to expand their voice and agency, acquire and control assets, adapt to climate change and shocks, and access better markets, and financial and public services.

Ultimately, this Initiative’s research will shape socio-technical innovations that contribute to increased gender equality and social inclusion, reaching at least 80 million people by 2030.

This will be achieved through:

  • Research that identifies approaches and solutions that reduce barriers to gender and social equality in the global agrifood system, and measures their economic and social costs and benefits.
  • The use of mixed methods and causal impact evaluation, to provide evidence of cost-effective socio-technical innovations that overcome these barriers and prioritize agency, empowerment, resilience, and improved governance for women, youth, and marginalized groups.
  • Work carried out in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where women, youth, and marginalized groups are vulnerable to climate shocks as well as persistent poverty, inequality, and social exclusion.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. At least 10 national agencies, civil society networks, and other public and private actors have strengthened their planning, decision making, and investments by incorporating evidence-based practices, novel scenarios, and bespoke gender transformative strategies to overcome structural barriers and enable women’s voice and agency and greater social inclusion in agrifood systems governance and markets.
  2. At least four context-dependent, socio-technical innovation bundles designed and piloted with multiple stakeholders in Eastern Southern Africa and West Central Africa to achieve empowerment outcomes for women, youth, and marginalized groups generate an evidence base for large-scale climate-resilient agricultural investments by CGIAR and partners.
  3. At least four governments, UN agencies, or non-government partners have modified the designs of social protection and other poverty graduation programs to strengthen gender equity and social inclusion in nutrition, health, education, agricultural livelihoods, and psychosocial wellbeing.
  4. At least three governments in climate change-affected countries of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have increased the gender responsiveness of local or national-level plans and policies, including those related to climate action, to enable women and vulnerable groups to better influence policies and budgets, and ensure investments and services benefit them.



Women, youth, and other vulnerable groups become proactive agents of agrifood systems transformation, benefiting from enhanced agency in policy dialogues, greater participation in the co-design of innovations and programs, and a better ability to demand, access, and control use of services and technologies.


Agrifood systems retrofitted for greater gender equality and social inclusion result in improved ability to provide adequate quantities of healthy, nutrient-rich food to meet the growing nutrition, health, and food security demands of millions of men, women, and children.


Poverty graduation programs, women’s entrepreneurship development, and application of gender-responsive packages of technical and institutional innovations to stabilize and enhance productivity contribute to creating new jobs, developing resilient livelihood portfolios, and expanding economic opportunities for women and men in food systems.


Enhanced agency and reduction of structural barriers enable women, youth, and other vulnerable groups to participate more actively in, and influence, policy making processes such as National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), the Global Stock Take for the next generation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs).


Implementation of tried-and-tested socio-technical innovation bundles, which include digital support, enhanced decision-making, participatory development, and application of context-specific strategies, has a positive impact on the status and management of natural resources in target sites.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


Header photo: A woman maize farmer in Panama. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR.