Did you know that women produce 60 to 80 percent of the food in developing countries, but own just 2 percent of the land? That water shortages and drought affect women first? Or that women farmers have fewer opportunities than men to start businesses or reach new markets where they can sell their crops?
I didn’t know any of this myself until I started writing Oxfam America’s latest fact sheet, Fight hunger: Invest in women farmers. As I gathered the facts from Oxfam research and outside sources like the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, I began to get a clearer picture of the connection between women’s efforts and the world’s food supply.
Basically, hunger is not about too many people and not enough food. It’s about power, and inequalities in access to education and resources. If you’ve ever been to an Oxfam America Hunger Banquet, you might remember the MC saying those words… maybe right around the time you realized that not everyone at the banquet would be eating the same meal.
I ended up using those words on the fact sheet, too, because they seemed to sum up the whole problem: Women’s hard work feeds millions, and women produce the world’s staple crops, but they’re often battling against deep-rooted inequalities. Add in the consequences of climate change (droughts, floods, and unpredictable rainy seasons) and you’ve got a true threat to our global food supply.
However, if women farmers have equal access to the resources they need—land, water, economic opportunities, training and education on sustainable farming—their hard work can pay off for all of us, no matter who we are and where we live.
So actually, once you have the facts about hunger, the answer is simple. As one reader astutely commented on Oxfam’s Facebook page: “Invest in women… Period.”