2014 is the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) and on the USA’s Food Day this year, 24th October, we must resolve to eliminate gender inequality in farming, and support and invest in women farmers who are the heroines of the food system.
On average, women represent 43% of the world’s agricultural labour force, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank. Yet, the FAO cites evidence of a gap in crop yields of about 20%–30% between male and female farmers. This is largely due to differing access to resources and inputs for their farming. Closing this yield gap between men and women could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by up to 150 million. When women have the right resources and tools, they have extraordinary potential.
If consumers, business leaders, policy-makers, funders, donors – and eaters – invest more in women farmers and in higher value, more sustainable food production, it would result in greater nutritional diversity, healthier families, children who do better in school, a stronger economy and a less hungry world.
Women everywhere – business women, mothers, teachers, thinkers and entrepreneurs – are already changing the food system through measures such as creating better working conditions, securing land rights and becoming leaders in their community. There is a diverse array of organisations across the globe dedicated to the success of these women.
Here are eight initiatives that are empowering women to create better food systems:
Jatun Sach’a Project – In Bolivia, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime started the Jatun Sach’a project to provide rural women with training on innovative uses of local plants. Through increased knowledge of native vegetables and other crops, such as yucca and majo, the women in the programme grow produce for their families and local communities that improve food access and nutrition.
Plate to Politics – Formed through a partnership betweenMidwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and the Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN), Plate to Politics brings women working in sustainable agriculture into the US political system and increases the number of women farmers and food advocates in leadership positions. The initiative provides a network of support for women in sustainable food production to help them run for elected office and influence US food and agriculture policy.
Rose Karimi and Women Going Green – Climate change will require small-scale farmers in the tropics to develop adaptation strategies unique to their location. To meet this need, Rose Karimi created the Women Going Green programme, which helps small-scale coffee farmers in her native country of Kenya adopt low-cost environmental adaptation strategies and diversify their incomes to achieve greater food security.
Rural Women Making Change (RWMC) – In 2005, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada founded the RWMC initiative to support research into issues that impact rural women in Canada. RWMC is organised into eight research teams investigating three broad topics, including the day-to-day work of rural women’s organisations, the everyday experiences of rural women and girls, and the impact of gender and rural policy on women.
Rural Women New Zealand – This organisation supports rural women by providing training, job opportunities and advocacy. In its programme, Women in Farming, women set up farming groups to share knowledge and develop new farm-based skills. They attend workshops, training sessions and field trips focusing on a variety of topics, including breeding and raising poultry, cheesemaking and biodynamic agriculture.
Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) – The capacity to adapt to climate change largely depends on resources, education, technology and basic services for all, but particularly women. For more than two decades, London-based WEN has been fighting for environmental justice by ensuring that women have the resources they need to make informed decisions. WEN is composed of a number of women-led groups working in areas such as women’s health and reproduction, climate change and local food systems across the UK.
Women for Women International – Since 2002 this UK organisation has run a year-long programme training and providing funds to women in Afghanistan. Their goal is to give women the means to support themselves financially. Course topics include raising poultry for egg production, growing vegetables in greenhouses and beekeeping.
Food Day, on 24th October, aims to inspire Americans to change their food choices and convince businesses, schools, farms and policy makers to implement healthier, more sustainable food policies. During Food Day and the IYFF in 2014, let’s put the focus on investing in female farmers to help bring about a more positive food system for the future.
Participants can join the celebration of real food and push for improved food policies that support women in the following ways:
- Attend a Food Day event such as: watching a screening of Food Patriots in Denver; attend a Food Day symposium hosted by Bowie State Natural Sciences in Washington, DC; participate in garden, art and science activities at Learning Circle Preschool near Boston; celebrate Louisiana’s food history at the first Big Easy Satsuma Peel in New Orleans; attend cooking demonstrations by the Bay Area Dietetic Association in San Francisco; or attend a screening and community discussion of Fed Up in Los Angeles.
- Join the #FoodDayChat on Twitter, hosted by @FoodDay2014 from 12pm–5pm ET on 24 October and tell everyone why you support women farmers!
- Register your social media account for the #FoodDay2014 thunderclap to add your voice to the campaign for real and just food for all.
- Share the Food Day Food Literacy Quiz and encourage your network to take it on Food Day.
- Participate in the #FoodDayPlate contest on social media by sharing a photo of your healthy or sustainable meal! Use hashtag #FoodDayPlate to participate.
If you’re living outside of the US and can’t attend a national event, be heard on social media!
For more information on Food Day events, fact sheets about food justice, lesson plans for all ages covering several topics, food policy information and much more, visit www.foodday.org.
Written by Danielle Nierenberg and Sarah Small
Featured image by Gates Foundation
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