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.

trees

“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.

Climate Change Effects Lead to Mass Migration in India

Project: South Asia Small Grants Initiative

Topics: , , , ,

Source: Neeta Lal/IPS
Source: Neeta Lal/IPS

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“Displacement for populations due to erratic and extreme weather, a fallout of climate change, has become a scary reality for millions of people across swathes of India. Flooding in Jammu and Kashmir last year, in Uttarakhand in 2013 and in Assam in 2012 displaced 1.5 million people.”

South Asia continues to be hard hit by the effects of climate change. High temperatures, rising sea levels, and increased cyclonic activity in India are creating large-scale migrations. Just in the eastern Indian state of Assam and in Bangladesh alone, its been estimated that a million people have been rendered homeless. As droughts and flash floods prevent the success of crops, as much as a quarter of India’s population has been affected — many of whom, as we know, are women farmers who are the backbones of rural communities.

With precious resources, like land and water, being depleted by every passing day, we as a global community must come together to support one another as we address ‪climate change, and find solutions for those already hit the hardest. We believe women are key to finding, and implementing, these solutions.

To read more about this issue, click here.

Over 1 million people hit by flooding in India’s tea region of Assam

Project: Together for H2OPE

Topics:

We’ve just learned of the flooding that has hit the communities and tea gardens in the Assam region of India. This is also the region (specifically, the Tinsukia district) where our project, Together for H2OPE — a partnership between WEA, Numi Foundation, and Purva Bharati Educational Trust — is based. Please join with us as we keep all those impacted in our thoughts. We will be keeping a close watch on the situation, to see if/how we can support our friends and colleagues on the ground in the coming hours/days.

A woman (C) looks on as she walks with others to a safer place through a flooded road after incessant rains at Bullut village in Kamrup district in Assam, June 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files
A woman (C) looks on as she walks with others to a safer place through a flooded road after incessant rains at Bullut village in Kamrup district in Assam, June 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

More than 1.2 million people in northeast India have been hit by floods which have submerged hundreds of villages, inundated large swathes of farmland and damaged roads, bridges and telecommunications services…

More than 2,100 low-lying villages and almost 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres) of crops have been partially or totally submerged in upper Assam…

The fast-flowing waters have also breached embankments and eroded dykes, leaving some parts of national and state highways inaccessible and compounding efforts to rescue marooned villagers and distribute food aid such as rice, lentils and oil.

Officials said more than 60 percent of region’s famed Kaziranga National Park, home to two-thirds of the world’s endangered one-horned rhinoceroses, is also under water, leaving the animals more vulnerable to poaching…

Experts say decades of mass deforestation have led to soil erosion where sediment is washed downstream from mountainous areas. It ends up in rivers where it builds up on the river bed, raising the level of the water far higher than normal.

Read the full article here.

Daily flood watch available here.

Congress Passes the Global Food Security Act of 2016

Project: Planting Seeds of Resilience in Southern India

Topics: , , ,

By: Janice Kim, Programs + Operations Intern

Last week, in a celebrated step forward, Congress passed the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) of 2016. With just the president’s signature needed now, the GFSA reaffirms the United States’ commitment to supporting global food security and nutrition.

Though the newest version of the bill doesn’t create new programs or add funding to existing aid efforts, what it does do is set new standards for U.S. involvement in global hunger relief efforts. The emphasis of the GFSA is on supporting women, children, and smallholder farmers through long-term efforts to reduce global food shocks and reliance on food aid.

Here are a few of the components of the bill that WEA is especially excited about:

  • Promoting non-U.S.-centric agriculture-led economic growth for small-scale farmers that could reduce global poverty, hunger, and malnutrition
  • Improving the nutritional status of women and children while improving stability of small-scale farmers

Overall, in its most aspirational form, the GFSA could mean more support of small-scale producers—many of who are women farmers (women are the backbone of the rural economy in developing countries and are responsible for 60-80% of food production)—and greater access to skills, resource management capacity, networking, and financing to sustain their work in the long run. This goes hand in hand with the work of many of WEA’s project partners, like Vanastree.

WEA and Vanastree have partnered together since 2014 to uplift the role of rural women farmers in the Malnad region of southern India. Through this partnership, Vanastree and WEA are building the capacity of small-scale women farmers, supporting them as they cultivate their own forest gardens and strengthen seed banks, providing training on integrated food gardens for women and youth, creating opportunities for women to generate stable, alternative sources of income, and more. These efforts are all in answer to the regions growing food security concerns.

Youth in the garden
Manorama Joshi (center, crouched down) of Vanastree teaches farming techniques.

WEA, together with many other organizations, are looking forward to seeing the positive impacts the GFSA can mean for women farmers, their communities, and the goal of ending global hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.