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[In the News] Climate Change and Food Security in Nepal

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

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Over the past few years, Nepal has faced troubling weather events and a substantial body of evidence points to climate change as a primary cause. Longer droughts, frequent flooding of rivers (due to melting glaciers), and extended summer seasons have directly impacted agricultural production and the availability of food, most especially for poorer communities. This recent article by The Diplomat discusses this in more depth.

There is a substantial body of evidence that points to climate change as jeopardizing food security in Nepal. A recent study by the WFP concludes that food security in Nepal is highly sensitive to climate risks. The study highlights that recent climate-related events in Nepal like droughts, floods, and glacial melt impact crop production, people’s access to markets, and income. As per data revealed by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) of Nepal, “over the last decade, around 30,845 hectares of land owned by almost five percent of households became uncultivable due to the climate-related hazards.” Studies have predicted that if climate change continues to jeopardize agricultural production in Nepal, the livelihoods of two-thirds of the people will be at risk.

Climate change not only affects agricultural production and availability of food in Nepal, but also has a negative impact on access to food for the poor. Climate-related events have contributed to decreases in agricultural production in Nepal, which in turn has caused high inflation in the food market. The WFP’s report stated that the percentage of households spending a “very high” proportion of their income on food has increased in Nepal, which sequentially has exacerbated poverty and hunger in the country.


Nepal is not the only developing country whose food security is in jeopardy as a result o climate change. Many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia face similar threats as well. To counter this food crisis, the article posits that a tangible policy response is needed — specifically, the international community has an obligation to support our fellow community members in those countries, like Nepal, that are often hit hardest by climate change-induced food insecurity.

WEA’s South Asia Small Grants Initiative reflects our commitment to these efforts. From 2012-2015, this initiative provided women-led grassroots organizations with strategic small grants to fuel collective efforts and social movements in India and Nepal. Today, the groups we partnered with continue to work tirelessly to ensure food sovereignty, environmental sustainability, climate justice and dignified livelihoods for women in their communities and regions.

Read the full article by The Diplomat here, and for more information on our South Asia Small Grants Initiative, visit our project page.

Stewards of Food Culture and Biodiversity: Voices from the Northeast

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

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In her piece for Vikalp Sangam, Rucha Chitnis shines her light on the challenges faced by communities in Northeast India to preserve the region’s rich agrobiodiversity and food culture.

“A journey on a food trail in the region [also] reveals a rich agrobiodiversity and a unique food culture that has been stewarded by local communities–from the Brahmaputra Valley in Assam to remote mountainous tribes in Arunachal Pradesh. In the face of modernization, mining, oil exploration and escalating deforestation, both, the biodiversity of species and food crops, including wild edibles, are threatened.”

As Rucha explains, since forests are a vital source of food and indigenous crops, new economic policies supporting large infrastructure projects in the area could pose a direct threat to small scale farmers.

The article uplifts the voices of four activists and advocates working for ecological justice in their communities of Northeast India. Their work takes different angles but it is no coincidence that each is concerned with empowering women to raise their voices and be recognized as key players in ecological justice. We are especially excited to hear from Mary Beth Sanate of Rural Women’s Upliftment Society (RWUS). RWUS works to promote sustainable livelihoods in the face of conflict and climate change, and was a WEA South Asia Small Grants Initiative partner. Mary Beth and RWUS’s work advocating policy and social change on behalf of women’s rights continues to be an inspiration to us!

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Mary Beth Sanate of RWUS (third from right). Photo: Rucha Chitnis.

“We need a strong gender policy in the state and women’s participation in the development of climate change policies is key…women are slowly realizing that the customary law is discriminatory. It needs to be reformed so that women can have equal access to property, political participation and other resources.” — Mary Beth Sanate

Read the full article here.

Nepal quake impact on single women highlights need for equal land rights

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

Topics: ,

By now, we are all aware of the devastating impact the 2015 earthquakes had on Nepal. What may not have been as comprehensively covered in the weeks and months that followed was the acute impact on women.

According to this article in Reuters, “Of the more than 900,000 homes damaged and destroyed, about a quarter belonged to female-headed households. More than 500,000 women and girls were displaced and about 2,000 women were widowed, according to official data.”

Photo: UN Women/Piyavit Thongsa-Ard
Photo: UN Women/Piyavit Thongsa-Ard

“The deep gender inequality in Nepal meant that women, and single women in particular, suffered most in the aftermath of the earthquakes,” said Lily Thapa, founder of Women for Human Rights (WHR), a group campaigning for single women’s rights with about 100,000 members.

“They could not make themselves heard and they received the least assistance, which left many vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and harassment,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Kathmandu.

While the 2015 constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender and established equal property rights, a deep-rooted patriarchy still denies these rights to women, and to single women in particular…

“Strengthening single women’s asset ownership is key to reducing their vulnerability to disasters and boosting their resilience,” Thapa said.

Read the full article here.

Women, disasters and climate change

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

Topics: ,

As Mary Robinson and Wangari Maathai stated in the Huffington Post in 2010, “The battle to protect the environment is not solely about technological innovation — it is also about empowering women and their communities to hold their governments accountable for results.” This has been a core foundation of WEA’s work for the last decade, and — as this article in The Jakarta Post details — our current times and the natural disasters we see around the world today reinforce this very principle, driving home the need to truly invest in the women around the world who invest in our earth and communities.

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The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana

In his speech in 2009, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said climate change affected people of all ages and gender albeit in different scales and intensity. However, the most vulnerable are the poor, while women are disproportionately affected as compared with men, with a ratio of 4:1. According to the World Bank (2008), 61 percent of victims from the Myanmar hurricane were female, 80 percent from the Aceh tsunami and 67 percent from Hurricane Gorky in Bangladesh.

Women also endure greater ongoing suffering from the impacts of climate change. For example, failed crops causing food scarcity may further result in a sharp increase in malnutrition among women and girls — as many traditions prioritize food for men and boys as the breadwinners of the family. During long droughts, women must walk as far as 10 kilometers just to fetch a bucket of water for their families.

These circumstances may lead to the misperception that women are more vulnerable to the impacts of disasters because of their weak physical characteristics; in reality, it is gender inequality that contributes to the high proportion of women’s suffering amid disasters.

Read the full article here.

India’s new reforestation law ignores indigenous people

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

Topics: ,

Analysts and experts are stating that a new Indian law — the Compensatory Afforestation, Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) law — aimed at boosting reforestation across the country ignores the importance of indigenous people in conserving land and tramples on their rights.

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“Evidence from around the world shows that farmers and local communities are far more efficient and effective at protecting landscapes as compared to centralized bureaucracies”, said Neera Singh, an environmental justice expert and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, in the Indian Express newspaper

Under the [previous law: the landmark 2006 Forest Rights Act (FRA)], forest dwellers cannot be removed from their land without consent of village councils, which are made up of local residents.

Under the CAMPA bill however, authority to earmark land for development and assign compensation for it, lies solely with forest and state officials.

India’s new law facilitates displacement “without any accountability to the people whose forests, lands and lives will be damaged or destroyed”, said the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a coalition of charities supporting tribal rights.

This new policy raises deep concern for us at WEA, as many of the adivasi women we partner with are forest guardians and gardeners, relying on the forest as they have for generations as a source of food, fuel and livelihoods. Meanwhile, these women are also preserving traditional knowledge and holding critical expertise on forest management and, therefore, climate change mitigation.

Read the full article here.