Starting the Year Off With the Malnad Mela

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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At the end of January 2016, WEA’s Planting Seeds of Resilience Project partner Vanastree organized their 9th Malnad Mela. The Mela — featured in the Times of India — provides an opportunity for Sirsi women to showcase their seeds, soil, tubers, cotton, clothing, and food, increasing their recognition, honoring their knowledge, and providing and opportunity to learn more.

At this year’s event, the women farmers were especially able to increase awareness on the usefulness of tubers — a climate sustainable crop — and how to grow them, displaying seven varieties throughout the event.

The root booth at the January 2016 Malnad Mela. Photo: Vanastree
The root booth at the January 2016 Malnad Mela. Photo: Vanastree

“Women in the agriculture sector are not recognized anywhere. They play a vital role in handling all the aspects of agriculture in rural areas. Through Vanastree, we are trying to provide a platform to the women of Sirsi.”

–Sunita Rao, Founder of Vanastree

Read more about the event here, and experience last year’s Mela here.

Passing the Knowledge of Seeds and Ancient Farming from Mother to Daughter

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine
Source: Rucha Chitnis, Yes! Magazine

In the northeastern mountain state of Meghalaya, is the Khasi tribe, a matrilineal people, where the women own the land, and harvest numerous crops from their fields. Indeed, women are quick to note that by farming in the modern, monoculture way is ineffective, instead create jhum fields, following an ancient shifting cultivation method. Karamela Khonglam grows 35 different crops on her land. A diverse crop of foods leads to overall health and in this way, knowledge of different ancient grains and ways are passed down, generation after generation.

Indigenous women are also holders of traditional knowledge that enables them to gather medicinal plants and wild edibles in the surrounding forests, and gives them deep understanding of the ecology

That is not to say the Khasi aren’t facing problems. Today’s rice monoculture is encroaching ever closer to Khasi land, as is the market economy. You can read more about the Khasi people, the food festival hosted by  Meghalaya and see the beautiful photo essay by Rucha Chitnis here.

COP21: Time to Put a Cap on Global Gender Inequality

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By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

COP21 (1)

“I will ensure this… the climate battle must be fought for, and with, women,” stated Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development. These words are Fabius’ bold commitment for the 21st session of the Conference of Parties (COP) which starts today in Paris, over which he will preside as President. For WEA and our global allies, his declaration is a real opportunity for world leaders to highlight and recommit themselves to addressing the intersectional relationship of women and the environment on an international level. The only question is whether Fabius and other decision-makers have the gumption to follow through on such promises made months ago? Or will COP21 be yet another international meeting that renders gender equality irrelevant to climate change, and creates an environmental protocol without the mechanisms to enforce it?

COP began as an international response to climate change with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and a commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. COP21 represents a chance for representatives from over 190 countries to cooperatively create universal agreements, all in the aim of keeping our climate below 2°C or 3.6°F. The U.S., the European Union., Russia, China, and India will largely negotiate the next 50 year agenda, as they are all among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases. However, in the past these powerhouse countries have failed to prioritize the critical role of and impacts on women in the global environmental movement.

One of the many reasons women are so incredibly impacted by the effects of climate change is due to the vital role they play in securing the natural resources that their families depend upon for survival, such as clean water, food, and fuel. Around 70% of women work in agriculture in low-income food-deficit countries, though generally women own less than 10% of the land. These women are already forced to mitigate the effects of climate change that drive soil erosion, drought, and food scarcity, and through traditional methods and knowledge these women are able to adapt successfully. The2014 Copenhagen Consensus stated that agriculture research is the single most effective way to invest in fighting malnourishment. Combine this with the fact that agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to pollution, and the answer is straightforward: Invest in women as keepers of traditional knowledge and stewards of natural resources, provide them with the support and networks necessary to develop their community-based, sustainable solutions, and witness how the ripple of their efforts become a wave of transformation.

But one of the biggest challenges in constructing an effective international protocol is designing the mechanisms to enforce it. Past COPs have only created legally non-binding frameworks for treaty negotiations, such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. So long as countries can opt out of ratifying treaties that might actually impact their emission levels, there seems little prospect for any sort of enforcement on pollutant control. However, at COP21 there is hope for change as the conference’s main goal is to, for the first time, create a universal, legally binding agreement with which to effectively combat climate change. A global accord where individual countries are actually held accountable to their actions is an opportunity to create environmental protocols that invest in the women leaders who are already adapting to these changes.

For WEA and our allies around the world, we can only hope that this rare opportunity for change will not overlook women—who are critical agents in any long-term plans for our earth and future generations—and that those world leaders like Laurent Fabius will hold true to their words. Because it’s time for a protocol that doesn’t merely cap our emissions, but asks us to restructure our world to a more sustainable way of life. So let’s make a change and invest in women to invest in a sustainable future.

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Further Reading:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurent-fabius/taking-climate-action-for-and-with-women_b_6819596.html
http://ecowatch.com/2015/07/06/carl-pope-paris-climate-talks/

Small-scale organic farming can feed the world

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In our work, we’ve seen the incredible contributions women farmers continue to make in their communities when small farms and home gardens, and their caretakers, are uplifted and respected.  This is also something we’re seeing in the news more and more each day—but it’s not a new idea.  Obviously, small farmers have known this simple truth for years, and apparently, so has the United Nations.

In a 2013 report by the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled “Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world, UNCTAD urges us all to make some big changes in our agricultural practices.

SmallScaleFarming
Image: eatdrinkbetter.com

“Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.”

Read the full article from TECHNOLOGYWATER here, and the Trade and Environment Review 2013 report here.

Weathering the Storms Together: Grassroots Women’s Response to Climate Change

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

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WEA shares our thoughts on women, climate change and more in Earth Island Journal‘s online edition.

Malnad Mela 2015 report for WEA-2

“Tomorrow, September 29, is Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action. As nations prepare for the UN COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, women across the world will tell their stories, demonstrate their solutions, and demand that our world leaders take meaningful action on climate change. As the late Dr. Wangari Maathai said, “…not only are women bearing the brunt of environmental and development setbacks — they are also a powerful source of hope in tackling climate and other environmental threats, and their voices must be heard.”

On this day of action, we have a chance to remind our global community that when we invest in women, we invest in food and economic security, community health and protection of land and our precious natural resources. Join us as we deepen the conversation: how can we powerfully stand with the leadership of grassroots women leaders who are on the forefront of struggle and transformation? Because when grassroots leaders can share best practices, access resources, and take collective action, they build a foundation that communities can stand on to weather storms together.”

Read the full article here.  And we’d love to hear how women in your life are driving solutions to change!