Women’s participation is vital to achieving sustainable food and nutritional security

Women, especially in rural areas, play a significant role in making food systems more productive and sustainable. They help in production, provide food for family consumption, reduce food losses, and market produce along the agriculture value chain. Yet, women have limited access to essential resources and services and are not part of the vital decision-making process through the food value chain.

Research has shown that women’s access to income and decision-making has increased household food security and nutrition. However, despite the progress made in agriculture, the pandemic exposed and tested the resilience of the existing food systems and vulnerable communities, especially women.

Food Security Policy Group (FSPG) initiated a dialogue with Minister of International Development  Honourable Karina Gould,  with African rural women leaders working at the nexus of women’s rights, biodiversity, and climate resilience on July 14th, 2021. The dialogue was timely, as many leaders worldwide prepare to join the United Nations Food System pre-Summit in Rome from 26-28 July 2021. This dialogue will help assess the progress made so far and lay the groundwork to close the gender gaps and commit to achieving the SDGs by 2030.

The aim of the dialogue was to exchange knowledge by African women farmers, leaders who have been working to bridge the gender gap and highlight the role of women to achieve better food and nutritional security for the household and community. Through this dialogue, the aim was also to learn a lot about Canada’s thinking in terms of international aid and, more specifically, how to develop programs at the intersection of women’s rights and climate adaptation to better support sustainable and equitable resource management agricultural production and market access.

Minister Gould highlighted that no one knows this better than women farmers, the challenges include food insecurity or economic downturns, conflict, and climate events in her opening remarks. While facing the consequences of gender inequality, women farmers directly face the real and immediate impacts of climate change on food security. These include water scarcity, loss of land, displacement of populations, disruption of traditional lifestyles, and threats to livelihoods.  Women are an essential part of the food system. They are in charge of food security and nutrition of households across the globe, but women also make up more than 40% of the agricultural labor force.

During the dialogue, the Minister raised few essential questions to the panel
1. Which initiatives and approaches have the most potential to achieve widespread gender biodiversity and climate outcomes

2. What works well to achieve climate adaptation and women’s rights within food systems? 

3. How can we move from small, local successes to transformational changes at the landscape level?

4. What are some of the challenges to be aware of, and how can these be overcome? 

The dialogue was participated by  Ms. Ruth Mitila, farmer, Kenya,  Ms. Aisha Bashir, Founder and CEO of Câm, a dairy company, NigeriaMs. Betelhem Lakew, Nutritionist, Agro-entrepreneur and Radio host, Ethiopia, Ms. Minrienne Kpomin KOLE, President Société Coopérative Agricole Fraternité d’Adzopé, Côte d’Ivoire and Ms. Mariam Sow, Executive director ENDA Pronat and prominent rural women’s rights Advocate, Senegal.

The key highlights and learning from the dialogues were –

  • Women such as the farmers and rural leaders who participated in the dialogue are on the front lines of gender transformation and climate action in developing countries. The Minister finds their successes and aspirations relevant as she turns her attention to the upcoming
     UN Food Systems Summit.
  • The session was undoubtedly helpful in demonstrating how agriculture and food systems can be crucial to achieving these goals. As well, the peer-to-peer discussion session helped the African women farmers and leaders, as well as Food Security Policy Group members, learn a lot about Canada’s thinking in terms of international aid and, more specifically, how to develop programs at the intersection of women’s rights and climate adaptation to better support sustainable and equitable resource management, agricultural production and market access.
  • As Global Affairs Canada prepares to implement its ambitious new climate finance commitments, we believe that civil society, in partnership with women-led programs, is well-positioned and equipped to make a real difference.
  • Canadian civil society organizations, and the Food Security Policy Group, in particular of which the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF), is committed to supporting the government in advancing the goals of the Feminist International Assistance Policy, including climate resilience.

Moderator, Jane Kuluo, Manager – Programs, at CDF Canada, said, “This was an excellent opportunity for collectively discussing ideas and sharing experiences on programmatic approaches that will help achieve climate, gender, biodiversity, and food security goals.”

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