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

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“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!

A Gendered Perspective: Reflections on the MDG and the potential of the SDG

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By: Katie Douglas, WEA Intern

katies mdg

A woman closes the door behind her and sets off into the early light of dawn. It’s the pre-monsoon season in India, and the air is thick with heat as she walks to her small kitchen garden. What began as a grant of seeds, has transformed into fertile beds of earth that are all her own. From her garden she can produce crops to both feed and financially support her family. From her garden she has been able to build alliances with other local women’s collectives around the importance of organic farming and how to improve their own self-sufficiency. From her garden her future is now one of abundance and opportunity.

This is our vision for the world because, we believe that when women thrive, communities thrive. When women are supported and resourced, they are able to lift their communities out of poverty, increase economic stability, and provide countries with sustainable practices to address and combat climate change. In light of this, the member states of the United Nation’s have been awarded a rare opportunity. As they reconstruct the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) into the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that will be adopted in September, these nations and participating NGOs have the potential for being the spark that makes the WEA vision for the world—a world where grassroots women leaders are heard, and their knowledge is honored and uplifted for the betterment of us all—a reality.

In 2000, the eight MDG were established by the UN to target global issues identified as being some of our world’s most pressing concerns. Over the past fifteen years, great strides have been made towards accomplishing these goals. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty has been reduced nearly by half, from 1.9 billion to 836 million. More girls than ever are now enrolled in schools, and gender equality in secondary schools in 36 developing nations is no longer just an aspiration, but a shining reality. Access to clean drinking water has also seen an increase for up to 90% of the global population. But while this incredible progress represents important steps toward creating global equality, the work of the MDG isn’t finished. We cannot regard this progress as a landmark triumph while millions of people—particularly women and girls—continue to face severe poverty, basic human rights insecurity and deep inequity.

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In this way, the MDG have come up short in shedding light on the intersectionality of the original goals, especially with regard to gender. In the final progress report the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki Moon, noted that of all the goals, gender equality and woman’s health were the most neglected. Even with an advanced education women around the world continue to earn 24% less than men. Less than 20% of government leaders in the world are women. And women in developing nations are fourteen times as likely to die as women in developed nations. When we look at this reality, we can clearly see how issues of climate change, food security, and environmental degradation continue—these are interconnected challenges existing in an ecosystem that is our world, and one challenge cannot be addressed while ignoring another.

Come September, all countries that participated in the MDG must re-evaluate and submit new goals, which will become the SDG. Of the seventeen SDG declared so far, one goal directly focuses on women, while many others have the potential to impact gender in positive and critical ways. Goal #5, the aim of achieving gender equality and empowering all girls and women, is only one of many and yet impacts almost every other issue at stake. In fact, a 2014 study by the Copenhagen Consensus Center providing guidance on which of the drafted SDG targets were the best investments rated those aimed at gender equality among the highest. Still, many governments fail to invest in the leadership and capacity-building of women, they fail to increase resources to address violence against women or to ensure access to reproductive health care, and they fail to recognize the disproportionate financial and environmental burden women bear as food producers and providers, community caretakers, and natural resource stewards. The global success of women represents our greatest hope for a reconciled world, and this is something that must be taken seriously by the SDG and world nations.

SDGs

The Millennium Development Goals gave us a glimpse of a world where change is possible. Through WEA’s vision of recognizing essential women’s rights, and building global networks of empowered female leaders, the Sustainable Development Goals have the potential to create a world where change truly is sustainable.
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Further Reading

http://iwhc.org/resource/10-red-flags-for-the-zero-draft-of-the-post-2015-development-agenda/
http://www.refinery29.com/2015/07/90279/united-nations-goals-report-gender-equality