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23 March 2010Women farmers are often the chief executives of their rural areas and supporting their economic development is crucial for economic growth and poverty reduction, a senior United Nations official said today ahead of an international conference on women’s empowerment. “Women farmers grow, buy, sell, cook food and feed their children. They perform the majority of the agricultural work and, on a global scale, women cultivate more than half of all the food that is grown,” said Yukiko Omura, Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).“Despite their contribution to global food security, women farmers are frequently underestimated and overlooked in development strategies,” Ms. Omura added.The statement comes two days ahead of the “Women’s Empowerment and Employment” Conference in Copenhagen, which will be attended by UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro.The conference has been organized by the Danish Government to find ways to accelerate and enhance employment for women to achieve the third Millennium Development Goal (MDG), which is related to women’s empowerment and international development.The eight MDGs were adopted by world leaders in 2000 as a blueprint for development by 2015. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host a conference on the MDGs this September in New York where he wants world leaders to commit to accelerated programmes to reach the Goals.In a message to an IFAD conference last month, the Secretary-General noted that with more than 1 billion people hungry, smallholders and rural producers have a vital role to play in overcoming global hunger and poverty, and new and varied partnerships are needed, with particular emphasis on the interests of women.IFAD has said it prioritizes women’s economic empowerment by providing support in enterprise development, income-generation activities and access to microfinance, education and training. “Women have strong motivation for learning and are open to engage in new activities, such as marketing and exporting products, which can create a better livelihood for themselves and for their families,” Ms. Omura said.“These traits need to be developed and supported in order to help them feed their families and communities,” she added.