Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Voices: World Food Day, October 16th

For the next installment of guest posts from Concern Worldwide, we read about World Food Day. October 16th is a day to raise public awareness of hunger and to strengthen the resolve of those already fighting it.

The writer on this post is Allyson Brown, the Operations Director for Concern Worldwide. Allyson says that female farmers need to be empowered, as they already grow a majority of the food in the under-developed world.

Did you know that women produce more than half of the world’s food but earn only 10% of the world’s income? And although women produce up to 80% of food in the developing world, they often aren’t able to grow enough to feed themselves and their families. Despite global commitments to improve gender equity, we know that poverty and hunger still have a woman’s face. Why? Because when times are hard, they eat last and least.

Tomorrow, October 16th will mark World Food Day, a day designated to heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen unity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. If we are serious about fighting hunger and beating global poverty, the empowerment of women farmers must be prioritized.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) almost a billion people go hungry every day, and 60% are women. This is not just today, this week or this month—it’s every day. Hunger continues to be the single biggest risk to health worldwide and poses a greater threat than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Concern Worldwide passionately believes that we can and should give this crisis the attention it deserves, and that women play a vital, yet unrecognized, role in the fight against global hunger.

Agatha Akandelwa is one of these women. These days, she takes care of 21 people in her Zambian village, including her grandchildren and several children of sick and deceased relatives. But sometimes it’s hard to find food for her large extended family.

“Our food situation becomes very difficult every year, starting in about September and lasting right through until January. During that period we only get about one meal per day. I really don’t feel good during that time. As an adult, I can go all day without food and then get up and go to the field the next day, but I get really concerned for the children during the hungry times.”

Concern Worldwide works daily with women farmers like Agatha. We help provide them with tools, training and a little money to invest in seeds—and the women farmers have seen a significant impact. They’ve not only been able to grow enough to feed their families, but they’ve also been able to use the income from their surplus crops to send their children to school and keep their families healthy.

Concern is empowering women marginal farmers in Uganda, Zambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere to:
• help build community networks
• promote alliances and external links to markets
• organize needs-based training and workshops
• develop flexible and innovative approaches tailored to specific needs
• become a recognized voice and force for fighting hunger

Women farmers are responsible for growing, harvesting, preparing and selling the majority of food in poor countries. They are on the front lines of the fight against hunger, but far too often they do not have a seat at the table with policy makers or aid organizations. Until recently, policies designed to address hunger have failed to adequately value the role of women farmers as crucial players in providing their families and communities with food for both consumption and sale. There must be a reform of land tenure rights, as well as property and inheritance laws as measures to help women farmers succeed.

The US, with its new Feed the Future Initiative—a $3.5B commitment to improving the global food supply—has already made investment in women and girls a key part of the program. Unless world leaders focus on women farmers, the target they set to halve poverty and hunger by 2015—one of eight UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) originally set in 2000—will not be reached. It’s that simple.

Concern Worldwide’s Women Can’t Wait campaign urges the international community to listen to women like Agatha and to increase support for women in the fight against global hunger. On September 21st during the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Tom Arnold, Concern’s Chief Executive, delivered 10,336 “Women Can’t Wait” petition signatures to the UN where they were received by Dr David Nabarro, UN Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition. Dr Nabarro received the petition very positively, saying:

“I welcome Concern’s Women Can’t Wait campaign, which has the support of over 10,000 signatories worldwide. Hunger is one of the most important challenges facing our world today, and it is essential that we acknowledge the central role women play as farmers, mothers, and providers of food to their families. All of us have a responsibility to make sure that by 2015, significant progress has been made in ending hunger for good.”

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