Food Security Addressed by Huairou at World Food Summit
Grassroots women leaders from rural farmers' organizations from the Huairou Commission and its member network GROOTS International participated this week in meetings at the World Food Summit in Rome. The food and agriculture sector is dominated by men from local, national and global farmers associations all the way up to the professional technical levels in mainstream institutions, yet this week we demonstrated a capacity for women, organized internationally, to break into that space.
Rural women in the Huairou Commission cited key ways that the food crisis is affecting them specifically as women, by increasing the pressure of their roles as key responders within the family, burdening them with more work, hampering their income generating capacity and creating more malnourishment for women. In response, the women demonstrate key coping strategies such as collective farming, alternative income generation and control and distribution of local seeds. Women farmers demonstrated these points in a report prepared for this Summit. FAO commissioned WOCAN and the the Huairou Commission to conduct a rapid grassroots consultation on food security with HC member groups in over 20 countries in preparation for the World Food Summit. The delegation presented and discussed the findings and its policy recommendations in coordination with members of WOCAN from around the world.
In a meeting of women ministers and government delegates, HC women shared their food security problems and solutions. The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to FAO, Ertharin Cousin and organized by WOCAN, IFAD, Heifer International and FAO. "How can we bring voices of women farmers who are leading? They should be the ones to speak to us, and we should use their learnings to move forward," said Ambassador Cousin in her introduction. The government representatives stated that the practices and policy recommendations of women's farmers organizations must be placed at the center of institutional policy and practice. The grassroots leaders, Nereide Segala Coelho from Rede Pintadas, Brazil and Violet Shivutse, GROOTS Kenya, shared their effective practices at water management, transference of best practices and responding effectively to the food crisis and marketing challenges at the local level.
Finally, as a parallel space to the World Food Summit, a large civil society forum was held, as a mechanism for civil society groups to exchange ideas and take collective delegations to the Summit. The Huairou Commission delegation actively worked with other participants in the women's caucus to take forward a declaration. The women also participated in the Indigenous Caucus and thematic groups, discussing such issues as who holds power in the area of food security.
The Huairou Commission is working in partnership with Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and NRM (WOCAN) and its professional members in the food and agriculture sector, as well as the gender equity division of the FAO itself to effectively impact these meetings.
Recommendations from the Huairou Commission draft report on the research consultation:
1. Less than 2% of women own land around the world. Women's secure tenure over land must be protected through laws and policies that promote equitable access, control and ownership over land for women and men. This will ensure food security and will support women's efforts in combating discriminatory practices in land issues.
2. Recognize the impact of climate change on women food producers and their contribution to enhancing resilience and therefore ensure equitable allocation of resources and benefits from climate change mitigation and adaptation.
3. The majority of smallholder farmers are women and produce 60 - 80% of the world's food. National policies and programming should support women's farmer organizations by providing equitable access to credit, information and technology so that women can increase levels of food production through local storage, processing, marketing and income.
4. Women's grassroots organizations have developed innovative practices such as collective farming, seed banks, alternative income generation and new ways of accessing markets. Grassroots women's collectives should be supported to function as technical experts in teams for spreading skills and knowledge.
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"This is what we are about: We plant the seeds that will one day grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities."
- Archbishop Oscar Romero