What women want

Female farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43% of the global agricultural labour force according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Smallholder farming is dependent on many of these women and yet their roles often go unrecognised and unsupported. For example the majority of collective action interventions in agricultural markets have favoured men meanwhile few female smallholders are paid for their work. Societal norms can also men that women are limited in their access to land ownership, farm equipment and credit – important factors in productivity, income generation and food security.

Photo Credit: Anna Ridout/Oxfam

Photo Credit: Anna Ridout/Oxfam

By closing the gender gap that exists between men and women in smallholder farming overall production could increase, food and nutrition security could be improved and the health and well-being of households and communities could be bettered.  Providing equal access to existing resources and opportunities in farming could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.

Oxfam have supported the Aaroh campaign in 71 districts in Uttar Pradesh, a state where only 6% of women own land, less than 1% have participated in government training programs, 4% have access to institutional credit and only 8% have control over agricultural income. Led by local NGOs, Pani Sansthan, Vinoba Seva Ashram, Samarpan Jan Kalyan Samiti and Disha Samajik Sansthan, the main aim of the campaign is to “help women gain recognition as farmers so that they own agricultural land and access institutional credit, new technologies and government programs”. After several years there is an increase in the number of women who own agricultural land and some 8,000 husbands have shown their willingness in writing for joint land titling. But despite progress women are still struggling to access land and bank credit without the presence of a male family member or husband.

Photo Credit: COLEACP PIP/Aurélien Chauvaud

Photo Credit: COLEACP PIP/Aurélien Chauvaud

Oxfam also initiated their Researching Women’s Collective Action project in 2009, running for three years, which sought to address knowledge gaps and links between gender and collective action in selected agricultural markets in Ethiopia, Mali and Tanzania. They found that women were more able to prioritise the nutrition, health and education of their children if they had a degree of financial independence. The project also investigated the common barriers women face in engaging with collective action projects – “access to formal groups, being overlooked by extension services and the need to provide the support women require and in a way that works for women.”

The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) has been investigating for more than 30 years how inequalities between women and men affect agricultural productivity and food security. Their research aims to guide development organizations and policymakers in finding practical ways women’s roles in agricultural production and trade can be supported. This research suggests that “improving women’s access to resources, technology, markets and property rights will increase farm productivity, raise income and improve household nutrition”, as they explain in their video. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Africa Conference on Land Grabs 2014, PAEPARD

A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops, PLOS One

Climate change a “threat multiplier” for farming-dependent states-analysis, Thomson Reuters Foundation

10 billion people for dinner | Nina Fedoroff | TEDxCERN, YouTube

Biotechnology: Against the grain, Nature

Climate smart, sustainable agriculture, AgriPulse

Thirty percent of world’s food wasted, new online platform seeks savings, Thomson Reuters Foundation

How To Eat For The Climate, Forbes

mNutrition – how mobile phones are improving nutrition, The Guardian

South Africa: Five Diseases, One Vaccine – a Boost for Emerging Livestock Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, All Africa

New project to boost yam production in West Africa, IITA

IPCC preparing ‘most important’ document on climate change, BBC

Resilience for food and nutrition security, IFPRI [Read more…]

Yesterday, today and tomorrow: women, food and poverty

event141016-familyfarmingA series of international days as observed by the United Nations has and is taking place over several days this month.

Yesterday

Yesterday was International Day of Rural Women, the first of which occurred in 2008. The day is about recognising “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

Rural women are crucial in attaining sustainable rural development but they often face inequalities in terms of access to productive resources, finance, health care and education. Women and girls are also more likely to be undernourished and to go without food despite the central roles they play in a household’s wealth and health. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only central to household welfare though but to rural communities, national economic growth and global food security. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, in her speech on the International Day of Rural Women, highlighted the message that rural women need to be at the heart of all development efforts.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, in his speech marking the occasion, talked about the need to address discrimination and unequal access to resources in the first instance. Rural women often rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. For example, in developing countries, rural women represent approximately 43 per cent of the agricultural labour force. UN Women’s publication Realizing Women’s Rights to Land and Other Productive Resources, published with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), examines the factors affecting women’s rights to land and resources, presenting success stories and future priorities. UN Women also supports several initiatives that promote the leadership of rural women and has partnered with the FAO, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) for the “Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women” initiative, which “engages with governments to develop and implement laws that promote equal rights”.

Rural women are key to producing and providing food for their families. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and Farming First have produced the interactive graphic “The Female Face of Farming”, which shows the role women play in agriculture around the world.

Today

Today is World Food Day and the theme is Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth”. This has been chosen to “raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers”, a key focus of the UN designated 2014 International Year of Family Farming. Family farms, the main form of agriculture in the food production sector, play a significant role in providing food and managing natural resources and thus contribute to the goals of ending hunger and poverty, protecting the environment and achieving sustainable development. 500 million out of 570 million farms across the globe are family farms, responsible for at least 56% of total agricultural production. This infographic was produced for World Food Day to highlight the critical role of family farmers. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Two billion people suffering from hidden hunger according to 2014 Global Hunger Index, even as levels of hunger in many developing countries decrease, IFPRI

The Pig Pledge, Farms not Factories

Countries agree on key policy commitments to fight malnutrition globally, FAO

Conservation agriculture and ecosystem services: An overview, Palm et al

GeneWatch UK PR: Second-generation GM crops: an environmental disaster, GeneWatch

Building a bridge from basic botany to applied agriculture, Eurek Alert

EU makes public its wish list for under-fire U.S. trade deal, Reuters

Grand Challenge: Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development, Impatient Optimists

Participatory Land Use Planning to Support Tanzanian Farmer and Pastoralist Investment: Experiences from Mbarali District, Mbeya Region, Tanzania, EcoAgriculture Partners

Food security successes earn World Food Prize, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Sowing the seeds of stable agriculture, SciDev.Net

Thomson Reuters Foundation and FAO launch global food security news platform, FAO

Food labels can reduce livestock environmental impacts, Eurek Alert

GMO The Truth with Vandana Shiva and Deepak Chopra, YouTube [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Tropical forests illegally destroyed for commercial agriculture, The Guardian

FAO food price index drops to four-year low, FAO

Rise in greenhouse-gas concentrations continues at alarming rate, Nature

How will the new EU team line up on GMOs, TTIP and energy?, Ecologist

Agricultural revolution in Africa could increase global carbon emissions, Purdue University

Demand for agricultural products drives ‘shock’ tree loss in tropical forests, BBC

Women are much more powerful in agriculture than you might think, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Plant diversity in China vital for global food security, University of Birmingham

Amazon deforestation jumps 29%, The Guardian

Report: A new approach to governing GM crops? Lessons from Brazil, Mexico and India, University of Durham

Harmonizing crop trait data: Crop Ontology, Bioversity International

Corporate influence through the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa, Wolfgang Obenland

Field trial of Xanthomonas wilt disease-resistant bananas in East Africa, Nature [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Why nutrition-smart agriculture matters, Devex

The next steps for Africa to meet its potential, The Washington Post

Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation, Powlson et al, Nature Climate Change

Getting caught with our plants down: the risks of a global crop yield slowdown from climate trends in the next two decades, Lobell and Tebaldi, Environmental Research Letters.

Smart Aid for the World’s Poor, The Wall Street Journal

Crops v conservation: how farmers can solve the dilemma, Financial Times

Food, farming and antibiotics: a health challenge for business, The Guardian

Farm manager plays leading role in postharvest loss, EurekAlert [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

Africa Needs Science, Not Aid, The New York Times

Biotechnology in Africa, Springer

AfDB’s NERICA dissemination project receives US Treasury Award, PAEPARD

Can we change the goals of development without changing the implementers?, IIED

Fishy business, Nature

Climate change research goes to the extremes, Northeastern

Harvest of controversy, The Hindu

UPDATE 1-Brazil farmers say GMO corn no longer resistant to pests, Reuters

Geneticists offer clues to better rice, tomato crops, Phys.org

Climate change wins precarious slot in proposed development goals, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Milking it in Malawi, Global Food Security [Read more…]