A BLOG POST BY BARONESS GOUDIE
Today Stephenie Foster and I hosted a breakfast in Washington D.C. to discuss global issues effecting women, with particular focus on ‘Food Security: How We Feed The World’s Seven Billion People’. The event was a great success with a lively discussion on the key issues surrounding food security.
There was a fantastic turnout made up of a variety of people including Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. As well as individuals from NGOs relating to women, including the Global Fund for Women, as well as researchers and academics in the field of food security.
The discussion began by talking about what food security actually means and how it is affecting women and girls. More women than men in the world are hungry. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, 20% of women are undernourished. In India and Bangladesh it is 40%. When food prices rise, women are hard hit due to their lack of resources relative to men, with poor access to credit, income and land.
We then discussed women farmers and how they farm differently to men, and are often relegated to the production of subsistence crops on marginal land. Women work long hours, and mostly by hand. African women carry out 90% of the work processing food crops and providing water and fuel, and 80% of the work of food storage and transport from farm to village, however they only receive 10% of the credit. During the discussion it was highlighted that if women had the same access to productive resources there would be an increase in food produced, so much so that we could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million.
These comments led the discussion to what policies are important for national governments to implement, highlighting the need for women farmers to have better access to markets, training and to owning land.
Finally the debate focused on the policies that are important for international organisations, including USAID and DIFID to implement. The key is to help smallholder farmers through better production and marketing, so that there is more food available. Investing in women farmers will increase food available, reduce poverty and reduce hunger.
A representative of the Global Fund for Women spoke about the results of their research and how it showed that the restrictions on the USAID funds in terms of how they are used, are not enabling women to have access to them, and therefore the policies are failing to respond to women's real needs on the ground.
Importantly, it was also mentioned that there is a real need to focus on the nutritional value of the food produced as opposed to just the quantity produced.
As ever this breakfast is an opportunity to have a real discussion about global issues effecting women and girls. Food security is a growing problem and as highlighted in this post we are up against some incredible challenges. I would like to thank all those who attended the event and I look forward to speaking with you in the future.