The third annual G(irls)20 Summit opened in Mexico City today with an impactful visit from First Lady Margarita Zaval and Ambassador Patricia Espinosa, Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. The first day of the Summit focused on the economic potential of investing in women in agriculture, and the delegates heard from some of the foremost experts on this topic, from the World Economic Forum and the World Bank to the UN World Food Program and NGOs dedicated to giving women the ability to realize their full potential as smallholder farmers.

A keynote address from Isatou Jallow, Chief of Women, Children and Gender Policy at the UN World Food Program drew an important parallel between secure land rights for women and health and nutrition outcomes of entire communities, calling for policymakers to view malnoutrition through a woman’s lens to fully understand its implications. She asserted that millions and millions of small communities rely on agriculture to survive, yet women continue to be denied access to productive tools that would allow them to access their full potential. “We know the facts,” she said. “What are we waiting for?”

In a panel discussion on food security, the World Bank’s Jenny Klugman and Susan Bradley of the USAID Bureau of Food Security emphasized the impact of empowering women farmers, and the integrated approach that is required to achieve gender parity. Said Klugman, “Closing gender gaps can’t be done by the World Bank alone. Political commitment and domestic energy are equally important.”

The Summits afternoon session focused on the role of science and technology in increasing women’s agricultural productivity, and the contraints female smallholder farmers face in doing so. Eve Crowley of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) cited five key barriers women face in agriculture:

– Access to natural resources like land and water
– Access to financial resources like loans
– Access to physical assets like fuel and transportation
– Access to human capital like education and basic nutrition
– Access to social capital like cooperatives and other social networks

She asserted that the amount of food wasted in wealthy countries is almost the same as the amount of food produced in sub-Saharan Afica in a given year, and called on the delegates to “blow the whistle” on agricultural inequity.

The day was a provocative one for the delegates, and they were left engaged and inspired by the challenge in front of them. esther Wamano, a scientist and Nutrition Officer at African Women in Agricultural R&D (AWARD), offered the group this inspiration as she encouraged greater participation by girls in agricultural science: “Look your fear in the eyes and move forward with determination. I promise you won’t regret it.”