Over the past year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has come up with flagship publications calling for support for women producers as well as encouraging the shift to agroecological production systems - as noted in the reports State of Food and Agriculture and Save and Grow. It is almost as if they were listening to civil society and have finally come up with the same conclusions as us to the problem of hunger.
The newly elected FAO Director General, José Graziano da Silva, will undoubtedly play a key role within the organisation – bringing greater leadership and credibility to the central UN agency dealing with food and agriculture. However at the same time, the indispensible role of the civil society in deliberations around hunger must not be forgotten. Opening up policy making space to ‘non-technical’ experts has many benefits; they bring with them their lived experiences and many promising solutions, simultaneously with a sense of urgency and realism.
To this effect, ActionAid, WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management) and Oxfam along with many other civil society organisations have called upon the new Director General and high-level representatives from 191 Member States to pledge to strengthen their mandate on gender equality and women’s empowerment at the 37th Session of the FAO Conference:
If we do not invest in rural women’s livelihoods, assets and decision making power, the Millennium Development Goals of reduced poverty and food insecurity will not be achieved.
Bolstering these demands from the civil society, Anggun, Indonesian singer and the Goodwill Ambassador for the FAO, endorsed a video statement demanding urgent action on mainstreaming gender and investing in women farmers:
Gender must be integrated into the FAO’s work plan, and women’s leadership and expertise must be the basis for designing and implementing policies and programs... Investing in women in agriculture could increase yields and decrease global hunger by 12-17%.
There is a high tide of enthusiasm and optimism for a new era in the FAO, especially in advancing women’s vital role in agriculture and in fostering agroecological systems. ActionAid welcomes this new focus within the institution and urges the FAO to ensure that it translates into reality on the ground. Indeed, this exciting momentum will not be sustained without strong commitment from governments and donors on championing the needs and aspirations of women farmers and on supporting them to build their own solutions suited to their ecologies.