Stories tagged: women

Monica Maigari: My Message on the International Day of Rural Women

To celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, we interviewed Monica Maigari, a Nigerian farmer who has been named a “Female Food Hero” by Oxfam. Monica spoke at the session “Food Security in Crisis” at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa.

FF: How did you begin your career as a farmer?

MM: I was first introduced to farming as an elementary student. The teachers would take us to the countryside in the evening where we would work in the gardens and learn about farming. I took an interest and learned much. After marriage, my husband and I as teachers made little money. So I began farming to supplement our income.

FF: What are the challenges farmers face in your region?

MM: In our region, one of the main difficulties is access to the equipment that can make our agriculture less labour intensive. In addition, reliable access to improved seeds and inputs can be a real challenge. Finally, for women, the right to inherit and have title to land is difficult.

FF: Is climate change affecting your region?

MM: Yes. The main difference is in the timing and duration of the annual rainy season. One year the rains may come late; the next year they may be very early. For example, farmers in my region of Kaduna state usually plant rice in July to coincide with the annual rains. However, this year the rains came early and our rice harvest will be very small.

FF: How have you overcome these challenges?

MM: I have sought out education and worked to develop test plots that not only help me to try new techniques and seeds, but also help other women to learn more modern practices of farming – in seed spacing, rotation with legumes, and moisture retention.

FF: Do you think women face more difficulties than male farmers? 

MM: Yes. Women especially have difficulty in have secure access to land. Men are most often the landowners in the family, so if a woman is widowed she often cannot inherit the land. And yet, women are the majority of those that work the land and produce the crops, but often have the least ability to obtain credit. In addition, many extension programs are directed to men, and women are not as accepted.

FF: How have you overcome these difficulties?

MM: Like other Female Food Heroes, I have worked to form women’s groups where we share knowledge, and create opportunities for work and added value in our crops. Women mentoring and working with other women is a powerful tool.

FF: How did you get involved in the Female Food Hero Competition?

MM: A local organization came to my community with an application for the Nigeria Ogbonge Woman completion sponsored in part by Oxfam. I applied and out of over 1,200 women, I was one of twelve finalists. I then went on to take a 2nd position. Using the proceeds from that initiative, I was able to purchase the land I farmed, work as an advocate for small-scale women farmers in my region and also in other countries like Ethiopia and the U.S.

FF: How did it feel to win the competition?

MM: At first I had no words. I was the only woman winner from my state of Kaduna. I am happy that my winning is allowing me to help other women farmers, and advocate for the rights to land and the need to address climate change.

FF: What are your hopes for the future of your farm?

MM: I hope that I can continue to improve and add value to my farm, so that as I get older I will be able to sell it to another farmer and be able to use that money to benefit other women, my community, and the world.

FF: What is your message to other female farmers on International Day of Rural Women?

MM: My message is that women must join together to build a better food system, and to advocate for our rights to land, tools, and education.

Prabhu Pingali: Women’s Groups as Conduits Towards Resilient Communities

Our guest author, Prabhu Pingali, Professor of Applied Economics & Director of the Tata-Cornell Agriculture & Nutrition Initiative at Cornell University, continues our series of blog articles on resilience published in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the conference Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” 15-17 May 2014.

Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are becoming ubiquitous across rural India.  There are currently around 3 million registered women’s SHGs in the country. These groups are becoming integral to the lasting resilience of its rural food systems and communities, and can provide some useful lessons for the rest of the developing world.

Initially set up for facilitating microfinance, SHGs are now playing an important role as conduits of overall empowerment of rural women in India, giving women the strength to create change that they could not have been able to achieve individually, in terms of access to finance, environmental stewardship, and even political empowerment.

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IN ACTION

This year I have visited many groups that demonstrated the impact women’s SHGs are having on building a resilient community. In Gufu for example, a village located a few hours outside of Ranchi, Jharkand, we visited an SHG that was helping women break their dependence on local moneylenders and stop selling valuable assets (often land) when they needed access to credit. It began life as a savings and loans group and is now operating a cooperative store selling seed and fertilizer and has helped its members purchase irrigation pumps for their land.

The leader of an SHG in Kunti, a neighboring area to Gufu, told us proudly, “We now have a bank account and I go to the bank to manage the account. I never went into a bank before I started with this group.  I always thought banks were for people with money. We have money now.” This new sense of confidence has women increasing their participation in village-level meetings and talking about their aspirations to run for local government offices.

In Jharkand we visited PRADAN, an NGO that has a long track record of working with women’s groups. PRADAN was helping one rural community improve the supply of water to its drinking water wells by changing the way it uses land on the upper watershed. The women in the community participated in mapping the watershed, in making decisions on cropping pattern changes, and in implementing the change.  Today perennials have replaced annual crops in the upper watershed, soil erosion has reduced significantly and well water is available throughout the year, even during the peak summer months.

NOT ALL SELF HELP GROUPS ARE SUCCESSFUL

The evolution of SHGs from savings and loans groups to become an access point for political decisionmaking and natural resource management is truly astounding – but not all groups are able to step up to taking on the broader development and local governance challenges.  So what makes an SHG flounder or flourish?

Many of the groups we visited lacked leadership or managerial skills, or exhibited poor group cohesion.  In many cases, the leaders were overburdened by numerous and competing demands from the various development projects that are trying to use the SHGs for accomplishing their objectives. All too often, external organizations, eager to see change, have elected to channel projects through SHGs. They are perhaps unaware of how the splintering of limited time and resources of SHG women might undermine the capacity for SHGs to manage their own affairs, a fundamental dimension for change.

FOCUS ON GROUP BUY-IN AND OWNERSHIP

Institutions, donors, and organizations looking to leverage the power and potential of SHGs should be optimistic, but keep in mind the ultimate goal of enhancing women’s empowerment and opportunity. Individual ”buy-in” and group ownership of decisions are vital to ensuring that SHGs are a platform to facilitate transformative change that will build a more resilient community.

As development agencies, researchers, or practitioners, we need to proceed with caution so as not to undermine the potential of SHGs. Equipping SHGs with the financial and managerial resources they need to meet goals determined by the group and forgoing projects that could highlight the differences amongst women (educated versus non-educated, young versus old) will remain critical principles of practice.

Certainly, it will require a more nuanced view of SHGs, one that looks at them as organizations on a pathway to determining their own future rather than simply vehicles for project implementation that can provide heartwarming stories about women.

 

This blog article is part of an ongoing series on resilience being published ahead of an upcoming IFPRI conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014. Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, not only helping them to “bounce back” but also to become better off. This conference aims to help set priorities for building resilience, to evaluate emerging threats to resilience, and to draw lessons from humanitarian and development responses to previous shocks.

MAR202014
#AskAg Twitter Chat: Empowering Women at the Head of Family Farms

Thursday 20th March, 11am – 12pm EDT on Twitter

Join the conversation!

2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. But who is at the head of these family-farming households? Research from the FAO has found that up to 40% of households are headed by women in Eastern Africa, and across the developing world, women account for 60 to 80% of smallholder farmers.

Yet these women face economic and social constraints. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 15% of landholders are women, and they receive less than 10% of credit and 7% of extension services.

Policies that address gender inequalities could lift 150 million people out of hunger. How can women be empowered to make this estimation a reality?

Join experts from USAID and global agriculture coalition Farming First on Twitter at 11am EDT on Thursday 20th March to debate the issues with our experts:

sylvia-cabus-usaid

Sylvia Cabus is the gender advisor for the Bureau of Food Security at USAID and for the Feed the Future Initiative. She worked for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Kenya, Morocco, Mali,and Burkina Faso. In the United States, Sylvia worked as a program officer with Heifer International, Handicap International, and USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.

 

stephanie-hanson-one-acre-fund

Stephanie Hanson is the director of policy and outreach at One Acre Fund, where she manages the government relations and policy team and One Acre Fund’s global policy and advocacy work. From 2006 to 2009, she covered economic and political development in Africa and Latin America for CFR.org, the website of the Council on Foreign Relations. 

 

susan-carlson-wfo

Sue Carlson has been a farmer and family farm advocate much of her life. She currently serves as Facilitator and Chairperson of the World Farmers Organisation Women’s Committee, a GAP Catalyst for the Global Funding and Research Gender in Agricultural Partners, and serves on the Shamba Partnership Board. Over the years she has traveled to nearly 40 different countries advocating for family farmers. 

 

thembi-fanrpan

Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba is a Project Manager with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). She coordinates the FANRPAN Youth and Gender Programme Portfolio, aimed at developing a holistic agriculture policy framework in Africa that will support engagement of youth and women in the agriculture sector. 

 

Questions to be addressed:

  1. What challenges do women in family farming face in the developing world, and what do they need to thrive?
  2. How can we reach more women farmers worldwide with tools and skills they need?
  3. What are the success stories that show the benefits of investing in rural women? How do we measure this success?
  4. How do we identify and empower male allies in the quest to improve women-run family farms?
  5. Women farmers are often both the breadwinners and the bread bakers. How do we improve the nutritional status of family farms?

If you have additional questions you’d like to ask our experts, tweet @Agrilinks or @farmingfirst using the #AskAg hashtag!

MAR102014
United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

The fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 10 – 21 March 2014 (TBC).

In 2014, the priority theme of the Commission will be “challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. Participants will review women and girls’ access to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

More information will be announced soon – follow the Commission on the Status of Women website for more information.

African Scientists Brief MPs on Women’s Role in Delivering Effective Solutions for Agricultural Development

On the eve of International Women’s Day and against the backdrop of deepening food crises across sub-Saharan Africa, two leading African women agricultural scientists joined U.K. experts at a lunchtime parliamentary briefing of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development today on “Effective Solutions for Agricultural Development through Empowered African Women Scientists.”

An estimated 239 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are hungry, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The urgency to boost food production is clear, and ensuring the continent’s food security will require mobilizing the best minds from every discipline, especially women, who are the backbone of African agriculture. However, although the majority of those who produce, process, and market Africa’s food are women, only one in four (25%) agricultural researchers is female.  Even fewer, one in seven (14%), hold leadership positions in African agricultural research institutions.

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is addressing that gap by building the capacity of African women scientists conducting pro-poor agricultural research.

Dr. Sheila Ommeh, a Kenyan winner of an AWARD Fellowship and a molecular geneticist whose research focuses on breeding disease-resistant indigenous chickens, commented: “Seventy-six percent of all Kenyan rural households are engaged in some kind of poultry rearing. It’s critical to food security. However, their flocks—and their livelihoods—are endangered by bird flu and Newcastle disease. I’m researching these diseases and am trying to make the ‘chicken agenda’ a priority for research institutions and governments.”

AWARD fellow Christine Mukantwali, a senior scientist with the Rwanda Agriculture Board, is also concerned about the poor. She is researching pineapple fruit processing and preservation methods.  “In Rwanda, post-harvest losses of fruits and vegetables stand at 40 to 80 percent,” she said. “This is unacceptable in a country where 78 percent of the rural population suffers from limited or no access to food and 45 percent of children under the age of five experience moderate chronic malnutrition, according to World Food Programme reports.”

Pineapple harvests spoil due to lack of storage facilities and processing equipment, as well as processors’ limited technical skills and knowledge about market requirements, says Munkantwali. Through her research, she is helping small-scale pineapple processors to increase the shelf life of their products and extend their markets regionally.

“Women researchers such as Ommeh and Mukantwali are critical to solving Africa’s food challenges, but they need support to get their research results into the hands of those who need it most—smallholder farmers,” says AWARD Director Vicki Wilde.

“If women are to advance in their careers and be fully represented at decision-making levels, then they need to be equipped with both the hard scientific skills and the so-called soft skills of leadership and negotiation that are not usually taught in the university classroom or modeled in the lab,” said Wilde. “AWARD equips women scientists with these competencies, and we are seeing dramatic changes. For example, from our first two rounds of AWARD fellows, 120 women, almost one-quarter of them have been promoted and another quarter have completed their Master’s or PhDs. Almost half have received other awards: recognitions, fellowships, scholarships, and grants.”

The panel, moderated by Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander, also included Dr. Camilla Toulmin, Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), Joseph Cerrell, Director of the European Office, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Monique Mikhail, Sustainable Agriculture Policy Adviser with Oxfam GB.

Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at Imperial College London and leader of the agricultural advocacy group, Agriculture for Impact, facilitated a discussion session. He commented, “Closing the gender gap in African agriculture could be the missing link in addressing Africa’s food security concerns. These talented women are conducting critical research and have presented today not just the challenges, but solutions.”

Farming First and FAO launch Interactive Infographic: ‘The Female Face of Farming”

Farming First and The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have jointly launched a new interactive infographic entitled “The Female Face of Farming”.

The infographic is a striking visual representation of the statistics that underlie the urgent need to invest in rural women. You can view the full infographic at: farmingfirst.org/women

Women are the backbone of the green economy, especially in the developing world where (on average) they comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labor force. Yet they receive only a fraction of the land, credit, inputs (such as improved seeds and fertilizers), agricultural training and information compared to men.

The impacts of the gender gap in agriculture are significant. Women farmers typically achieve yields that are 20-30 percent lower than men. Yet the vast majority of literature reviewed confirms that women are just as efficient as men and would achieve the same yields if they had equal access to productive resources and services.

If women were given equal access to resources as men, they would achieve the same yield levels, boosting total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 – 4 percent.

This additional yield could reduce the number of undernourished people in the world by 100-150 million or 12–17 percent. In South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa alone, that would reduce the numbers of malnourished children by 13.4 and 1.7 million respectively.

As we strive to meet the global food security challenge and produce enough food to feed an estimated population of 9 billion people by 2050 then empowering and investing in rural women will be instrumental in meeting this demand. Not only will this help significantly increase productivity, but also it will help reduce hunger and malnutrition and improve rural livelihoods. And not only for women, but for everyone.

The infographic consists of 17 individually-designed graphics, each of which tells a part of this important story.  Each graphic can be Tweeted and/or embedded for use in presentations or blog posts.

Key questions addressed in the infographic are:

  • Why are women so important to agriculture?
  • Where does the gender gap exist in agriculture?
  • What are the impacts of the gender gap in agriculture?

The infographic has been launched in parallel with the ongoing UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and International Women’s Day on 8th March.