Monday, April 19, 2010

Women farmers' lack of access to decision making threatens climate adaptation, experts say

Varaidzo Dongozi in Reuters AlertNet: Sylvia Chipakwe has been a successful subsistence farmer most of her life, surviving through tough times and bad weather with a flexible approach to production. …But like many women in Zimbabwe, Chipakwe does not own the land she farms. And as a result, she does have access to farm-owner meetings and other opportunities to participate in drafting policies to help Zimbabwe deal with climate change.

"The tragedy is that as we face more and agro-focused challenges, women's roles will be more pivotal, yet they continue to be sidelined," said Betty Nhachi, a founding member of Women in Sustainable Development, a newly formed organisation which seeks to educate women and promote their participation in sustainable development.

For centuries, women have been Africa's farmers and custodians of farming knowledge, their experience passed on from generation to generation. So as the continent tries to adapt to climate change, women's voices belong at the forefront of working out techniques to adopt farming to changing conditions, experts say.

But in too many places - including Zimbabwe - women still lack access to the decision-making bodies that would allow them to pass on their expertise and help shape farming policy that works. The consequences are enormous: Many communities rely almost completely on women's farming expertise for their sustenance, and a lack of proper policy could worsen hunger and leave millions more vulnerable to climate change threats and worsening environmental degradation….

Women processing palm oil in Ghana, shot by oneVillage Initiative, Wikimedia Commons via
Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license