“There is currently sufficient food in the world for everyone, but 870 million people – one person in eight – does not have enough assured, nutritious food and 2.3 million children die needlessly each year from malnutrition.” According to Larissa Pelham, chair of the UK Hunger Alliance, this is the paradox of the global hunger crisis.
Pelham and the Hunger Alliance believe strongly that small-scale farming by women could offer the best way out of that crisis. In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Pelham points to the fact that “small-scale farming in Africa and Asia provides 80% of the food for the market places and households across these continents.” Moreover, she notes that “women produce 60-80% of the food in developing countries.” Her conclusion? “it’s not large scale agri-business on immense, prairie-crossing tractors that are the drivers of food productivity in countries where food insecurity is prevalent. It’s women.” Pelham cites recent studies by the World Bank which show that across the globe, women are the ones who invest more in the nutrition, health, and education of children than other family members.
Despite the evidence that women are responsible for food production and investments in family welfare, women typically receive only 5% of small scale agriculture investment. In some countries, aid organizations have begun investing in community gardens and other small-scale farming operations that allow women to grow nutritious food to support their families. In Bangladesh, the organization CARE launched SHOUHARDO (Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities), a $126 million dollar initiative designed to provide education and other services to rural women in order to help them improve food production for their families. Launched in 2006, the program is a comprehensive one, including financial and social services, as well as education about immunization and maternal health care.
Early evidence suggests that the CARE program takes exactly the right approach, resulting in a 16% decrease in childhood growth stunting in just 3 years. Studies of similar small-scale farming initiatives in Africa suggest that there are other sorts of benefits to comprehensive programs as well. One of those is environmental. Because small-scale farming involves mixing different types of local animals, trees, and plants, it could help to restore and sustain local ecosystems.
The UK Hunger Alliance argues that efforts like the CARE program, which invests in women small-scale farmers and combines financial and agricultural assistance with health and education programs, harness a vital cultural resource by allowing women farmers to play a pivotal role in improving the lives and prospects of their families, and moving us a long way toward solving the global hunger crisis.
– Délice Williams
Sources:The Huffington Post