ANANTPUR, India/BARIND TRACT, Bangladesh, Feb 25 2012 (IPS) – Agriculture currently provides a livelihood for roughly 1.3 billion smallholder farmers and landless workers, of which nearly half – close to 560 million – are women.
A vast majority of these women are living on a precipice, where small changes in their environment could result in chronic hunger and abject poverty.
Given the unprecedented scale of climate change, which has already caused massive food insecurity this year, rural women are not only extremely vulnerable, but also woefully overlooked by governments and policy makers who define top-down strategies for hunger and poverty eradication.
In response, the United Nations’ 56th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), scheduled to run from Feb. 27-March 9 at U.N. headquarters in New York, listed the empowerment of rural women as one of its priority themes for the year.
“If rural women had equal access to productive resources, agricultural yields could reduce the number of chronically hungry people by between 100 and 150 million,” according to a press release issued Thursday by UN Women.
This year’s CSW promises to examine the “empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, sustainable development and current challenges (and) will agree on urgent actions needed to make a real difference in the lives of millions of rural women.”
But while the U.N. is only just beginning its session on rural women, female farmers around the world are already deep in a struggle to secure their environment against the destablising impacts of climate change by using their traditional role as community leaders and ingenious farmers to sow the seeds of hope for their future.