Saturday, April 4, 2009

International Women's Day: Women in Agriculture

In case you missed it, March 8 is International Women's Day, observed in different ways around the world. For me it's always a reminder to update myself on the special challenges faced by women less fortunate than I -- particularly those working in agriculture to provide food and income for their families. And then I always get inspired to share what I've found with friends and colleagues, for the sole purpose of spreading the word on a topic that should get more attention than it does.

This year, I found a short video "Why Women Matter" from the World Bank. You'll see women around the world doing back-breaking work to feed their families, and learn a thing or two about why they're doing that work. In a nutshell:

  • Women grow around 80% of the food eaten by poor families.
  • On average, they spend 16 hours a day working on their farms and fetching fuelwood and water.
  • Most women farmers can't get the seeds, fertilizer, training, and credit that could help them grow more.
  • Women receive only about 10 cents of every dollar spent on agricultural assistance.

Then watch the brilliant Girl Effect video, which I've been sending people to all year, to make the connection between what happens to a girl and what happens in the world.

It's one thing to know the statistics, and another thing to know the real women behind them.

In December, I was so privileged to meet several women farmers in Indonesia and China while collecting agricultural stories and pictures for a client. In the first photo is Maria, a 50 year old widow with five children in North Sumatera, Indonesia. She grows tangerines, carrots and chilies to support her family.

In this next photo is Shuhua, who's 40 and grows cabbage, rapeseed and pigs in the Sichuan province of China. Her husband lives and works away from home in a city, as many do in China, and so she alone is responsible for the crops that support her family.

These are some of the strongest women I've met in my life, and I'll bet on them every time to survive and prosper. But technology and training are central to gains both Maria and Shuhua have recently made in earning better incomes while growing safe and healthy food for their families and communities.

Their stories have inspired me to share this message with you today. Women are important. Agriculture is important. Women in agriculture are amazingly heroic, and they need support. Tell a story and pass it on!

1 comment:

  1. That video gave me chills. I would have love to have shown you (that doesn't sound right) what we were involved in in SA. And also what people that I know are doing in SA. There is a man in White River (the town we were in) by the name of Mark Tucker, originally from the States, that has started a project in the African communities in Mpumalanga where he loans women (or men) a small amount of money to start a business. He doesn't just leave them there, he also helps them get their business going and gives them the necessary tools that they need (basic budgeting/book-keeping, business skills etc) to help them on their way. He has only just started it in the last year or so, but from what I have heard, it's going really well. I never knew that this is what you are so passionate about. I always thought it was really business-y stuff. You speak my language! I look forward to reading more of your blog. On my way to that RSS right now! Thanks for sharing. Hope you're well and surviving without your hubby. It was nice seeing him this morning. I look very forward to seeing you guys in June (hopefully). :)
    PS: Thanks also for the comment you left on my blog about our floors. I only saw it now. I think the notification may have gotten lost in spam space somewhere.... Eish!