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[In the News] Farmer suicides: A call to climate action for India

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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In a recent article by Suresh Babu of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Babu points out that “As both a contributor to climate change and a victim of its impacts, agriculture needs to become climate resilient. This direct connection between climate change and agriculture is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in India, where recent research has shown climate change as the key contributing factor to the suicides of more than 60,000 farmers.” 

For WEA, this shocking number and what it reveals about climate change and its deep impacts on smallholder farmers hits close to home. From 2014-2015 alone, farmer suicides across India increased by over 40% — from 5,650 to over 8,000. However, it’s Karnataka State in Southern India, where WEA’s Seeds of Resilience Project is based, that has seen the sharpest jump — from 321 in 2014 to more than 1,300 in 2015, the third-highest among all states.

So, what is the connection between climate change and farmer suicides?

Photo: Vanastree

As many other countries, India has borne the brunt of climate impacts, seeing increased flooding, variability in rainfall, extreme heat, and vulnerability to more severe storms. Especially for small-scale farmers, the risks become clearer, and more dangerous, with each passing year.

Failing to address India’s climate change can spell trouble for many smallholders who continue to depend on rainfed agriculture. To save farmers lives and livelihoods, making Indian agriculture climate-resilient must be a priority next step…

Empowering farmers to become financially independent will prove another key step toward [climate] resilience. Currently, farmers are trapped in a cycle of seeking out loans from high-interest money lenders. By making institutional credit available at affordable rates, farmers can avoid debt traps.

Further complicating the financial prospects of agriculturalists, government compensation policies seem to work against the farmers’ best interests. In a morbid sense, the compensation in the case of death of a farmer is seen as a route for farmers’ families to get out of debt. The money distributed to the farmer’s family is often used to pay off the predatory loans, to keep the farm afloat. This distressing cycle of debt further leaves farmers and their families most vulnerable to future climate-induced shock.

This crisis reinforces the need for community-driven solutions, not just to climate change, but to agricultural development and land ownership as well. WEA’s Seeds of Resilience Project aims to support the sustained organizing and capacity building of small-scale women farmers to preserve traditional agricultural knowledge, promote indigenous seed saving practices, support climate adaptation and mitigation through the cultivation of climate-resilient crops, and further the rights of women farmers.

For more on WEA’s work to support small-scale women farmers in India, visit our Seeds of Resilience Project.

[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.

First Public Preview of Land and Lens Photographs

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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In March, WEA’s Seeds of Resilience Project partner Vanastree, a women farmer’s seed-saving collective in Karnataka State, India, held their first photography training for project participants and community members, kicking off the storytelling component of this work called Land and Lens. This unique initiative supports the project’s ongoing efforts to ensure rural women farmers are equipped with multimedia and storytelling tools that will enable them to tell their stories of seed sovereignty, food sovereignty, and the future they envision for their communities.

We’re thrilled to share this first public preview of photographs taken by project participants trained through Land and Lens.

Showcased in this video is the photography of 9 intergenerational women from rural India — none of them had ever held a professional-level camera before. As part of Land and Lens, each photography student received basic camera training and as many as 3 week-long, self-guided sessions with their donated camera. The photos you see in this video were taken during those independent sessions.

For more information on Land and Lens, visit the official Facebook page for this initiative. For more on the Seeds of Resilience Project, visit our project page.

The Kurama Women Enterprise team shares clean cookstove technology with their community

Project: WISE Women's Clean Cookstoves Project

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Earlier this spring, WEA and WISE (Women’s Initiative for Sustainable Environment) hosted two week-long training intensives for the women participants of the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, which trains local women leaders from Kaduna State in Nigeria to use, promote and sell clean cookstoves. After growing their skills through business training, leadership and advocacy development, and financial planning, these entrepreneurs have launched their own clean cookstove businesses and are well on their way to improving the health and safety of countless women in their home communities, reducing deforestation and greenhouse gases, and increasing their own — and others — household savings.

The Kurama Women Enterprise is just one 15 two-person teams that took part in the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Training. After completing our both training intensives in April and May, entrepreneurs Elizabeth Bawa and Rifkatu Yakubu have been busy organizing outreach events in their community to spread the word about this life-saving technology. Their plan is to sell 120 clean cookstoves in their first 6 months!

Here’s an inside look at one of their recent community demonstrations:


 
To learn more about the WISE Women’s Clean Cookstoves Project, visit our project page.

The data is in…

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In case you missed it, WEA’s latest WEAvings newsletter is dedicated to Drawdown, the New York Times best seller that maps, measures, models, and describes the 100 most substantive solutions for reversing the buildup of atmospheric carbon within 30 years. Author, environmentalist, entrepreneur, and WEA Board member, Paul Hawken is also an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, and for years has emphasized the cascading benefits that occur in societies when women are supported to thrive. In Drawdown, the data speaks for itself. The top two solutions (family planning and educating girls) combine to make “…empowering girls and women…the most impactful tool for achieving drawdown.” Several other key solutions like Women Smallholders and Clean Cookstoves also underscore the critical importance of investing in our world’s women.

Every day, WEA training participants, trainers, and leaders model this most basic truth: when women are equipped with resources, agency, and support, they not only profoundly impact their local environment, but they create a positive ripple effect that lifts up entire countries.

As Drawdown describes:

“Due to existing inequalities, women and girls are disproportionately vulnerable to [the impacts of global warming], from disease to natural disaster. At the same time, women and girls are pivotal to addressing global warming successfully — and to humanity’s overall resilience…Suppression and marginalization along gender lines actually hurt[s] everyone, while equity is good for all. These solutions show that enhancing the rights and well-being of women and girls could improve the future of life on this planet.”

Within our newsletter, you can check out our project highlights and learn how WEA participants implement specific drawdown solutions for reversing global warming. Read on here.

Cheers to drawing down and reaching up!