Oxfam International Blogs - collective organizing http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/tags/collective-organizing en Day 7: Farmers do not come from Mars http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/12-12-18-day-7-farmers-do-not-come-mars <div class="field field-name-body"><p><em><strong>If poor farmers had more freedom to innovate and adequate access to public and private investments, they would likely disappoint us by getting out of farming altogether. But even if only one or two in five remained, they would change the world for the better, literally.</strong></em></p> <p><em>By Julio A. Berdegué, Principal Researcher,<strong><a href="http://www.rimisp.org/inicio/about_rimisp.php" target="_blank" rel="nofollow"> Latin American Centre for Rural Development</a></strong> (RIMISP)</em></p> <p>Resource-poor farmers are not Martians. Like you and me they make decisions that are largely informed by their culture, their capabilities, and the set of incentives (positive and negative) they face. The question that Oxfam asked me to answer invites us to think about a world in which the capabilities of the farmers have been greatly expanded and the incentives they face have been redefined in ways favourable to them. </p> <p>Amartya Sen would say this is what development is all about, attaining “the freedoms of people to lead the kind of lives they have reason to value.” </p> <p>What would resource-poor famers do with that freedom to innovate? Probably we would see about 500 million different answers, one for every smallholder on the planet. We need to recognize that that is just fine, because very often those of us who look at poor farmers from afar, tend to have strong preconceptions of who we would like resource-poor farmers to be in a better world that we have built in our minds. </p> <h3><em>“What would resource-poor farmers do with the freedom to innovate? We would see about 500 million different answers, one for every smallholder on the planet.”</em></h3> <p>If these farmers had more freedom to innovate, many of them very likely would disappoint us, leading lives that they have reason to value and that are probably quite different from those that we, external observers, would like to see them valuing.</p> <p>To begin with, many of them would move to cities. If they really had a lot of freedom, some would even move to other countries. However, if before deciding to move they had adequate access to public and private sector investments in support of their innovations, if they moved for sure it would be because they would value that option, and not because poverty, hunger and social exclusion expel them from their birthplace. </p> <p>Others would remain where they’ve always lived, or nearby, but would gradually become only part-time farmers, or even get out of farming. They, or their children, would become traders, shopkeepers, artisans, professional singers... or doctors and engineers and, God save us, MBAs or politicians. With such diversity they would enrich the social, cultural and economic fabric of their villages and of the nearby towns and small cities. Richer, better rural societies would be the result.</p> <p>Finally, some would continue to be farmers. I believe that they would be a minority of the 500 million that we started with. And that is also perfectly fine. If they were capable of bringing their ideas to fruition because they have adequate access to public and private investments, even if only 100 or 200 million remained in farming, they would change the world for the better, literally. </p> <p>Think about it: As farmers, what would they seek to achieve through their innovations? Probably they would seek to produce more, and to do it in ways that allow them to become the preferred choice of the buyers of their products and, ultimately, of the consumers. I think that they would value innovations that put more cash in their pockets, so they can buy the goods and services that are part of the lives they have reason to value and that they cannot produce themselves or exchange with their neighbours. </p> <h3><em>“Farmers would value innovations that put more cash in their pockets.”</em></h3> <p>They also would probably like to work less, or better said, to ease the huge physical exertion that is today associated with the life of the resource-poor farmer; that would allow them to live fuller, more humane lives. And, finally, I believe they would also like to be far less dependent on the political masters that today use their control of varied resources to condition farmers’ choices as citizens. </p> <p>I am quite sure that almost all farmers would seek these four outcomes of innovation, because, after all, farmers are not Martians. </p> <p>Yes, you must be asking, what about natural resources? Well, I am not as certain that most resource-poor farmers would chose to use less water, or fewer pesticides, or adopt soil-conserving technologies, under the “What if...” conditions of almost unlimited freedom from constraints that is implied in Oxfam’s question. </p> <p>I would hope that many would, but I am not sure. You see, several of the four outcomes of innovation that I believe most farmers would seek if they had a chance and that I listed in the previous paragraph, in many circumstances are contradictory to conserving nature. Would they sacrifice income, or production, or less physical exertion, if it were necessary to avoid a negative impact on the environment?  I am not sure they all would.</p> <h3><em>“Would farmers sacrifice income, or production, or less physical exertion, if it were necessary to avoid a negative impact on the environment?”</em></h3> <p>How, then, could society incentivize resource conservation so it is aligned with farmers’ probable preferences? We return to the start of this note: I believe that smallholders’ decisions are largely informed by their culture, their capabilities, and the set of incentives (positive and negative) they face. Those are the three possible entry points for policies and programs that seek to incentivize and support resource-conserving livelihoods. </p> <p>But let me insist that smallholders make their living by using natural resources, and for them to use those resources in ways that are better for nature, they must be able to see the benefit of such a course of action; simple coercion does not work in the long run and, to start with, smallholders are already coerced enough by so many forces that they really do not need any more of that.</p> <p>A fundamental starting point is that society should secure the effective exercise of the most basic rights of smallholders as human beings, such as the right to food and to lead a healthy life, or the rights of women in smallholder households to make informed decisions by themselves and act upon them. This can only lead to a better relationship between smallholder communities and nature around them, because the expansion of such rights can remove or ease many of the reasons why smallholders may use natural resources in unsustainable ways.</p> <p>In second place, society can also improve the ways in which smallholders use natural resources by making available some goods and services that many of us take for granted but that many farmers lack in full or in part: roads and better access to cities, fairer and more transparent markets, enforcement of labour laws and regulations (many smallholder households depend in part on wage labour which in rural areas often happens under appalling conditions), access to credit, and so on. Such “public goods” dramatically expand the range of options that smallholders have, and often reduce the relative attractiveness of activities that deteriorate the environment.</p> <p>One “public good” that is often forgotten is political rights. Smallholders need to be able to exercise such rights if they are going to have the voice and power to control the access and use of natural resources that belong to them by law or by custom. If rural communities do not have a say in crafting and enforcing the rules that determine who uses those resources and how they are used, the end result most often will be misuse by those who may not have the right, but have the power. </p> <h3><em>“Smallholders deserve to be seen and treated as persons with equal rights, but also with duties and obligations.”</em></h3> <p>In addition, collective action through community- or resource-based or economic organizations is a particularly powerful tool because it can open ways of using resources that are completely blocked for individual and isolated smallholders.</p> <p>Access to an expanded range of forms of knowledge and to resource-conserving technologies can also be quite effective, as long as those technologies also make sense to smallholders from a cultural and economic point of view.</p> <p>However, I don’t believe that the above types of actions are enough, because smallholders do have an incentive to use resources in ways that maximize their short-term, private interests. Like you and me, smallholders love birds and trees and beautiful flowing rivers, but as you well know, when it comes to human beings such love is not enough to prevent us from hunting the bird, cutting the tree, or diverting the river if we can derive a benefit and we can get away with it. </p> <p>This brings us to my final message. Well-enforced laws and regulations that constrain certain innovations or that limit the use that can be made of resources are necessary. Smallholders deserve to be seen and treated as persons with equal rights, but also with duties and obligations. In the world of Oxfam’s “What ifs...”, smallholders are citizens, pure and simple. That is development.</p> <p>Download: <strong><a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/sites/blogs.oxfam.org/files/farmers-do-not-come-from-mars-berdegue-dec2012.pdf" target="_blank">Farmers do not come from Mars</a></strong></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Day 7: Farmers do not come from Mars</h2></div><ul class="links inline"><li class="translation_fr first"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/fr/blogs/12-12-10-jour-7-les-agriculteurs-ne-viennent-pas-de-mars" title="Jour 7: Les agriculteurs ne viennent pas de Mars" class="translation-link" xml:lang="fr">Français</a></li> <li class="translation_es last"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/es/blogs/12-12-18-dia-7-los-agricultores-no-vienen-de-marte" title="Día 7: Los agricultores no vienen de Marte" class="translation-link" xml:lang="es">Español</a></li> </ul> Mon, 17 Dec 2012 23:00:01 +0000 Dr. Julio A. Berdegué 10161 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/12-12-18-day-7-farmers-do-not-come-mars#comments Day 5: Group Mutuality Paves the Way to a Sustainable Future for Smallholders http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/12-12-14-day-5-group-mutuality-paves-way-sustainable-future-smallholders <div class="field field-name-body"><p><em><strong>The fundamental problem for both female and male smallholders is the size of their farms. They are simply too small to generate an acceptable livelihood. An incorporated farm model could overcome many of the current obstacles and be the farming system of the future.</strong></em></p> <p><em>By Nicko Debenham, Director, Development &amp; Sustainability at <strong><a href="http://www.armajarotrading.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Armajaro Trading Ltd.</a></strong></em></p> <p>The fundamental problem of both female and male smallholder farmers is the size of their farms and their geographical isolation. They are simply too small to generate an acceptable livelihood. </p> <p>The reason why farms are so small is due to an inheritance culture which sees the land left to all the children of the deceased. As generations pass, plot sizes become smaller and smaller, and farmers’ incomes shrink. In many cases, families have reached the point where farms are a burden, rather than a legacy. </p> <h3><em>“Families have reached the point where farms are a burden, rather than a legacy.”</em></h3> <p>One consequence of the abundance of small and geographically dispersed farms is a low level of knowledge transfer between farmers and other actors in the supply chain such as research institutions, extension services and financial service providers. The difficulty and expense of trying to communicate with such a wide-reaching group of individuals means that knowledge of better farming practices is not shared. If farmers had access to industry knowledge there would be more agricultural innovation and a better use of technology. </p> <p>A further concern is that smallholder farmers struggle to make well-informed budgeting decisions. They are often financially illiterate, and their level of income is quite volatile. Therefore, even those few farmers who have access to financial tools are rarely able to obtain loans, because repayment is so uncertain. When loans are available, they tend to be at a high cost because of the perceived risk and expense of administering many small loans when dealing with multiple smallholder farmers. </p> <p>If farmers were able to raise finance, they would be in a better position to invest in technology and innovations, such as improved planting material and vital inputs.</p> <h3><em>“Only when farming is viable will it be a credible career choice for youth.”</em></h3> <p>The situation just described is more severe for women farmers, because of a traditional mindset that views males as the bread-winners. Access to training, membership in farmer organisations and agricultural leadership roles are frequently denied to women. If men and women had equal opportunities in the agricultural sector, not only could families in farming communities benefit from the superior credit-worthiness which women tend to have, but women living in rural areas could be empowered by greater choice and earning potential. </p> <p><strong>Help farmers understand the opportunities</strong>Smallholder farmers should be inspired to manage their farms as profitable businesses using a sustainable business model that will attract new generations of farmers into the industry. Only when farming is viable will it be a credible career choice for youth. </p> <p>It is a dismal reality that a legacy of land passed down through so many generations may no longer be capable of supporting an individual or a family, regardless of the size of investment in inputs. If farmers were to realize the potential production capacity of their farms, they could make better informed budgeting and lifestyle decisions.  Farmers must assess whether their farming pursuits are viable. </p> <p>A recent and ongoing exercise by the independent group GeoTraceability found evidence that an average cocoa farm size in West Africa is less than 1.6 hectares,  significantly lower than the previous industry-wide assumption of 2.5 hectares. This implies that many farmers have unrealistic expectations of their potential output and may be investing in false hopes. They may be remaining in a profession which will never be able to provide an income above subsistence level. </p> <h3><em>“Farmers may be investing in false hopes “</em></h3> <p>With an accurate representation of a plot’s production capacity to evaluate their current and potential income, farmers will be more inclined to adopt an entrepreneurial approach in order to raise production. </p> <p>Additionally, earning capacities can then be more accurately compared to alternative employment opportunities. The point is not that an individual must seek off-farm employment, but for farmers to have a realistic appreciation of what can make their farms profitable. </p> <p><strong>Encourage farmers to work together</strong>Imagine a group of farmers pooling their farms together in mutual ownership. Such a larger-scale, ‘incorporated’ farm could reduce costs and improve access to market knowledge, industry technology and innovations, and financial tools. Under this business model, each smallholder could choose whether to be a shareholder only, or both a wage-earner and a shareholder. </p> <h3><em>“The mutuality of the group enables easier knowledge transfer from research centres to farmers, which in turn encourages individual farmers to invest and innovate.”</em></h3> <p>A group structure would enable better communication and cooperation between farmers and external bodies such as research and financial institutions, to facilitate knowledge transfer. An incorporated farm model would also allow individuals to specialize their roles so that farming efficiency improves and credibility can be built up over time. </p> <p>Many development organizations take the approach of encouraging farmers to work together and support each other mutually.  Farmers often form groups which choose their own leaders and then are offered training in sustainable agricultural practices, access to necessary inputs, proven planting material, financial support, community infrastructure and information technology. </p> <p>Because the farmer group takes mutual responsibility for each member, financial institutions have fewer logistical challenges and can have greater confidence. Leaders usually coordinate the distribution of inputs and planting material relevant to the size and profile of the farms in the group. Over time, the mutuality of the group enables easier knowledge transfer from research centres to farmers groups, which in turn encourages individual farmers to invest and innovate. </p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong><strong>Farming must become an aspirational occupation</strong> where entrepreneurial farmers belonging to a group and mutually responsible for each other can generate a more-than-acceptable living through sustainable farming. For this to be achieved, the structure of today’s agricultural landscape must be adapted to escape the limitations imposed by undersized farms. A new movement consisting of an incorporated farm model may be the key to overcoming this crucial obstacle.</p> Download: <strong><a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/sites/blogs.oxfam.org/files/group-mutuality-paves-the-way-debenham-dec-2012.pdf" target="_blank">Group Mutuality Paves the Way to a Sustainable Future for Smallholders</a></strong> <strong></strong></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Day 5: Group Mutuality Paves the Way to a Sustainable Future for Smallholders</h2></div><ul class="links inline"><li class="translation_es first"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/es/blogs/12-12-14-dia-5-mutualidad-el-camino-hacia-futuro-sostenible-para-los-pequenos-agricultores" title="Día 5: La mutualidad: el camino hacia un futuro sostenible para los pequeños agricultores" class="translation-link" xml:lang="es">Español</a></li> <li class="translation_fr last"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/fr/blogs/12-12-14-jour-5-mutualisation-ouvre-voie-avenir-durable-pour-petits-exploitants-agricoles" title="Jour 5: La mutualisation ouvre la voie à un avenir durable pour les petits exploitants agricoles" class="translation-link" xml:lang="fr">Français</a></li> </ul> Thu, 13 Dec 2012 23:00:01 +0000 Nicko Debenham 10140 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/12-12-14-day-5-group-mutuality-paves-way-sustainable-future-smallholders#comments Day 7: Seeds and Sisterhood http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/seeds-and-sisterhood <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong><em>Governments and development agencies need to shift the onus of feeding the world away from time-strapped impoverished women, and instead support their organizing and cultivate their traditional knowledge. We also need to rethink women’s unpaid care work and lack of time as fundamental issues of food security.</em></strong></p> <p>By <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/user/profile/joanna-kerr"><strong>Joanna Kerr</strong></a>, CEO of ActionAid International</p> <p>As someone who has been working for women’s rights and sustainable development for the past two decades, <strong>I have heartily embraced the increased international attention on the needs and roles of women farmers in poor communities</strong>. But as development agencies prioritize these rural women, let us ensure that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past. If hunger, climate change AND inequality are to be tackled then NGOs, governments and women’s movements need an approach that shifts the onus of feeding the world away from time-strapped impoverished women, and instead supports them in their organizing and in their cultivation of traditional knowledge, and puts their rights first.</p> <h3><em>"Women are on the frontlines of the struggle over the way our food is produced, over knowledge, over seeds and over the sustainability of the food system as a whole."</em></h3> <p>From what I have seen across many parts of the Global South, women are on the frontlines of the struggle over the way our food is produced, over knowledge, over seeds and over the sustainability of the food system as a whole. Deo, a 42 year old Brazilian farmer working with <strong><a href="http://www.actionaid.org/?intl=" rel="nofollow">ActionAid</a></strong>, told me just how women are trying to bring about fundamental change:<em></em></p> <p><em>Men don’t know how to wait. They want to plant and then harvest. Working in agroecology demands patience. Time is needed to obtain a positive result, especially since our [past] way of farming has damaged our land too much. The men eventually abandoned the new system and returned to conventional methods. The women joined forces …to learn and fight with their husbands to change, stop the practice of burning, diversify production, feed the soil by covering it with the plants themselves and grow medicinal plants to improve our livelihoods.”</em></p> <p>Clearly, women like Deo make a significant contribution to localized food systems; millions like her are the primary food producers, providers, and processers in many developing countries. In fact, local small-scale food producers and providers have been innovating for generations, looking after our soils, seeds and the cultural heritage that accompanies food. Rural women in particular – be they farmers, forest dwellers, tribals or indigenous women –have been the repositories of knowledge on food production, seed conservation, processing and cooking food.</p> <p>Yet over the years this knowledge and these traditional, resilient and efficient systems have come under sustained attack from industrialized, mechanized food production and distribution systems. The push to homogenous crops in the fields and standardized foods on supermarket shelves is largely the underlying cause of the decline of these methods.</p> <p>As a response, ActionAid has been supporting an agroecology model of sustainable agriculture not through pre-set technological packages, rather built on the local practices of farmers. Our agroecological initiatives focus on organic methods, promoting diverse and nutritious crops while recognizing and building on the skills and experiences of women farmers and connecting them to academic knowledge on sustainable agriculture.</p> <p>But here lies the dilemma. These sustainable and more climate-resilient methods – as Deo reminds us above – take time to develop.  Time is a poor woman’s most limited resource. Society’s expectation that women will do the additional “care work” – child care, cooking, cleaning, water and fuel hauling – stands in the way of both development and women’s empowerment.</p> <h3><em>"Women’s unpaid care work and their lack of time are frustratingly not seen as fundamental issues of food security." </em></h3> <p>Women’s unpaid care work and their lack of time are frustratingly not seen as fundamental issues of food security.  Policy makers and most agriculture programmes are not recognizing women as food producers with both productive AND reproductive roles.   Development programmes usually address these separately and fail to see the linkages and trade-offs that come with seeing women only as farmers or only as carers/food providers.</p> <p>Generally speaking, agriculture departments and donors prioritize high yield production through chemical inputs and new seeds.  Green Revolution thinking is rampant.  And while peasant movements are justifiably fighting for land, they usually leave women’s rights as an afterthought.  Even in my own organization there are some colleagues who quite simply laughed at the prospect of focussing on, let alone men sharing, care responsibilities.  Gender norms run very deep. Further, while many women’s groups are trying to bring the care burden to the fore, the overwhelming demands of tackling violence against women or lack of reproductive rights overshadow this issue.</p> <p>I’d argue there are some relatively easy solutions to tackle both gender equality and sustainable agriculture including looking beyond the technical to the political.</p> <p>One obvious route is to ensure rural women have the means and possibility to organize.  I have seen, over and over, that by bringing women together, they can strengthen their identity as rural women, build solidarity among family farming groups, circulate useful knowledge, build their self-confidence, achieve individual and collective empowerment and even transform public policies.</p> <h3><em>"Women are using agroecology as an effective strategy to take back control over what they produce and how they produce it."</em></h3> <p>Second, donors and NGOs need to recognize that when women are using agroecology as an effective strategy to take back control over what they produce and how they produce it, they are actually having a positive impact on their food security, incomes, and health. They are expanding the area under their control where they can grow diversified and nutritious crops – in some cases their backyard garden – while reducing their labour provision to the family’s field where they had little control over the output and profits.</p> <p>Third, policy makers and programmers need to re-think the care economy as simply the domain of women’s unpaid time. Optimistically, this is increasingly an area of policy debate – of who should provide care services amongst the mix of families, public institutions, NGO service-deliverers and private companies. The policy response to this challenge is complex (i.e. it is not just wages for housework) and requires contextualisation, but overall, this debate needs to be brought into focus so that societies’ recognize and ultimately redistribute this care work.</p> <p>In the meantime, at the more practical level, where I have seen crèches or child centres, women’s milling cooperatives, seed banks, and other appropriate technologies to reduce women’s time, women’s leadership and empowerment follows.  These pragmatic efforts to improve the time efficiency of women’s food production can also have significant strategic benefits. The common notion that women are “helpers” and that their labour has less value than those of men will be transformed.</p> <p>In many cases, agroecology practices have helped show women and their families the importance of women’s economic autonomy—including the control and use of income raised by women. In ActionAid’s experience this work has motivated a growing number of women to proactively take on leadership roles in rural workers’ unions, and to come together to discuss issues such as market access and fight for new public policies on agriculture.</p> <h3><em>"Donors and NGOs need to support women’s organizing as both a means and an end in itself."</em></h3> <p>Many mainstream approaches to agriculture have perversely increased hunger, deepened poverty, undermined fragile soil systems and considerably increased women’s work burden. Donors and NGOs need to activate a holistic approach that increases women’s control over their time and their agricultural practices.  This means explicit support to women’s organizing as both a means and an end in itself.</p> <p>Supporting women’s farming groups through agroecology is not some out-dated romantic vision of traditional systems nor a feminist utopia as some critics might suggest.  Instead, more governments, NGOs, and social movements need to embrace these common-sense approaches and the very women who are at the forefront of the battles for food, sustainability, and human rights.</p> <p>Agroecology is where food justice and women’s rights could walk hand in hand.<em> </em><em></em>Download: <strong><a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/sites/blogs.oxfam.org/files/Joanna-Kerr_Oxfam-online-discussion.pdf"><strong>Seeds and Sisterhood</strong></a><em></em></strong></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Day 7: Seeds and Sisterhood</h2></div><ul class="links inline"><li class="translation_fr first"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/fr/blogs/semences-et-solidarite-feminine" title="Jour 7: Semences et solidarité féminine" class="translation-link" xml:lang="fr">Français</a></li> <li class="translation_es last"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/es/blogs/semillas-y-hermandad" title="Día 7: Semillas y hermandad" class="translation-link" xml:lang="es">Español</a></li> </ul> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 00:00:01 +0000 Joanna Kerr 10073 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/seeds-and-sisterhood#comments Day 5: Time for a New Recipe http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/time-for-a-new-recipe <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong><em>The women’s movement hasn’t been proactive about defining its own platform for action on food justice, and we are noticeably absent from spaces where decisions are made. We need to break out of our silos, strengthen our technical expertise, and start shaping the political process rather than stand on the sidelines.</em></strong></p> <p>by <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/user/profile/alexandra-spieldoch"><strong>Alexandra Spieldoch</strong></a>, women's rights activist, formerly with WOCAN<strong></strong></p> <p><strong>As producers, natural resource managers and food providers, women ARE the real food system</strong> and have much to lose in the current development paradigm, which is contributing heavily to food insecurity, environmental degradation and volatility. Leaders have acknowledged this in general terms, but have yet to act effectively to change those policies and programs that are detrimental to women’s human rights. Nor has the women’s movement been proactive enough about defining its own platform for action. Instead, women’s rights activists are often running behind the problems, not in front of them. Perhaps we have lost some of our footing in the way we are organizing ourselves.</p> <p>By using the ‘we,’ I do not pretend to speak for all the women in the world, nor do I believe there is one women’s movement. However, working collectively is important, and for this commentary, I am comfortable making generalizations to make some basic points.</p> <p>Here are five basic recommendations to help us move forward more effectively:</p> <h3>1. Fine tune our critiques and specific goals</h3> <p>A great deal of time has been spent describing the problems women and girls are experiencing with regard to the food system because they are staring us in the face and the story needs to be told. Yet when it comes to moving from describing problems to proposing effective solutions, the women’s movement often falls short and has become too comfortable with generalities. </p> <p>For example, some women’s rights activists have decided to just say NO to everything that is patriarchal, which may be an important political analysis, but it is not a strategy for action that inspires. Some are promoting gender mainstreaming of food and agricultural policies, a valid goal. However, it often turns into a quota system or a checklist for technocrats rather than a meaningful process for improving impact and bringing about systemic changes.</p> <h3><em>"Our efforts to weigh in have lacked a clear plan of action."</em></h3> <p>Globally, our efforts to weigh in have lacked a clear plan of action. We have been present and somewhat active in spaces such as the <strong><a href="http://www.fao.org/cfs/en/" rel="nofollow">UN Committee on World Food Security</a></strong>, the <strong><a href="http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/csd.html" rel="nofollow">UN Commission on Sustainable Development</a></strong> and the Rio + 20 Conference, yet we lack a process for bringing forth more content. And, we are noticeably absent from other spaces and processes (nationally and regionally) where decisions are made that have significant impacts on women’s food security and rights. </p> <p>For example, there is no clear advocacy strategy stemming from the women’s movements vis-à-vis <strong><a href="http://www.nepad-caadp.net/" rel="nofollow">Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program</a></strong> (CAADP), the agricultural program of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. It would be powerful to have a regional African feminist policy agenda that stems from national dialogues on the core issues, and regularly engages in the CAADP process. </p> <h3>2. Break out of our silos</h3> <p>Dialogues on inter-related issues are occurring in silos, making it difficult to advocate effectively. For example, water specialists meet at the <strong><a href="http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/index.php?id=6" rel="nofollow">World Water Forum</a></strong>. Agricultural Ministers meet to talk about agriculture and the economy at the <strong><a href="http://www.g20.org/index.php/en/g20" rel="nofollow">G20</a></strong> and at the regional level. Climate specialists meet at the <strong><a href="http://unfccc.int/2860.php" rel="nofollow">United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change</a></strong> (UNFCCC). Business leaders meet pretty much everywhere. And women’s rights activists converge at the UN <strong><a href="http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/index.html" rel="nofollow">Commission on the Status of Women</a></strong> – a political space with little money, low attendance, and little clout. This is a generalization, of course, but the hard fact is that women’s advocacy for a just food system takes place mostly in spaces that have minimal political weight.</p> <h3><em>"Women's advocacy for a just food system takes place mostly in spaces that have minimal political weight.</em> "</h3> <p>I’d like to see us organize our own multi-stakeholder dialogues on food reserves, price volatility and local food systems with gender experts, and directly involve ourselves in the agenda being set by the G20 governments. We could develop a pool of feminist experts to participate in negotiations on land, climate, water, etc… not just to say we were there, but to shape the political process. </p> <h3>3. Strengthen our technical expertise </h3> <p>Truthfully, there aren’t enough feminists with the technical expertise needed to contribute effectively to the various processes and programs at all levels and across sectors. If the women’s movement is to be influential, we need more gender experts in development, macroeconomic policy and legal policy, as well as more food scientists, agronomists, water specialists, nutritionists, and land specialists. It is bad enough that activists on these issues are few in number. Without technical expertise, women’s rights activists will never get beyond generalities.</p> <h3><em>"Without technical expertise, women’s rights activists will never get beyond generalities."</em></h3> <p>We can start by mapping expertise around the globe and connecting with women leaders, not just those who refer to themselves as part of the women’s movement. We could develop our own initiative for generating expertise and advocacy on food and climate related issues. Where some of this work is already being done, no need to recreate – we can highlight what is out there and build on it.</p> <h3>4. Increase and improve our funding sources </h3> <p>Lack of funding is a real barrier for whatever creative thinking we might do on how to create a just food system for women. Though leaders have been calling for more gender equity and more investment in women in food and agriculture, promises from the donor community are still largely unmet. There is money flowing from the private sector to support export-led growth and insert women farmers into global supply chains. However, little money is going to finance rural women and their families for a different agricultural model, one which supports viable local markets, agro-ecological practices and low-cost post-harvest technology.</p> <h3><em>"Little money is going to finance rural women and their families for a different agricultural model."</em></h3> <p><em></em>I would like to see a global network of progressive women funders which supports this model. Funders would meet regularly with technical experts and small-scale women producers who are leaders in sustainable production and food security, and actively support feminist research, networking and program development.</p> <h3>5. Learn from one another and rebuild our trust </h3> <p>We can learn from the many good initiatives that are out there, like vertical farming in the urban slums in Kenya, women’s seed saving in Guatemala, women’s organic rice farming in the Philippines, and women’s cooperatives in India and Niger. There are new discoveries such as post-harvest grinders and water technologies that are cheap and greatly reduce women’s labor and increase output without intensifying the agricultural model.</p> <h3><em>"It does seem at times that we are constrained by our own distrust of each other."</em></h3> <p>We need to catalogue what research and experiences are out there, showcase relevant policies, post breaking news, promote critical opinions, and highlight new leadership approaches. This can be done in many ways – an electronic resource is one important tool.We can also learn from what has not worked, such as mandating gender mainstreaming into projects without budgets, expertise or buy-in. </p> <p>It does seem at times that we are constrained by our own distrust of each other. There are historic, valid reasons for this in terms of activists being too general or policy-oriented and practitioners being too narrow in their focus on hands-on contributions, or NGOs speaking for grassroots women rather than letting them speak for themselves. We need to rethink our relationship with one another differently, better.</p> <p>In conclusion, in this broken food system, women have already shown that we are resilient, smart, and strong leaders. When we can take a deep breath and harness our knowledge and power to act, then we can shift the paradigm in our favour, which would also benefit the world.</p> <p>Download <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/sites/blogs.oxfam.org/files/Alexandra-Spieldoch-Oxfam-online-discussion.pdf"><strong>Time for a New Recipe</strong></a>.</p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Day 5: Time for a New Recipe </h2></div><ul class="links inline"><li class="translation_fr first"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/fr/blogs/changeons-enfin-de-recette" title="Jour 5: Changeons enfin de recette" class="translation-link" xml:lang="fr">Français</a></li> <li class="translation_es last"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/es/blogs/una-nueva-receta-para-el-cambio" title="Día 5: Una nueva receta para el cambio" class="translation-link" xml:lang="es">Español</a></li> </ul> Fri, 23 Nov 2012 00:00:01 +0000 Alexandra Spieldoch 10064 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/time-for-a-new-recipe#comments