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What lessons are there after decades of working with women smallholders?

This was the question that brought together 9 development agencies with an academic and members of DFID food team in October 2011.  We shared our own approaches, and experiences, and realised the richness and in-depth knowledge that exists within each of our agencies, with the communities we work with, with the women smallholders who truly are the “Food Heroes”.  We embarked on producing a joint paper to distil both our experience from community development work, as well as policy influencing with two aims: 1) capturing promising practises and programme learning; and 2) proposing common policy recommendations for national governments and donors. The paper can be downloaded here

As any of you who have worked on a joint-agency report would know, this is not a simple task, accommodating different viewpoints as well as differing priorities.  We were however, a determined group of women (and 2 men) – who met over several months to flesh out the key issues, agreed to highlight the learnings and the case studies, and not to promote our own organisations but put the rural women smallholders and their voices at the forefront.

Here are some of the voices of our women food heroes:

Before working in agroecology, cacao was the main crop and the most important crop placed under men’s responsibility. Women now fight and acquire the independence to plant other crops. We can increase the family’s food intake as well as its income.

– Andrelice “Déo” Silva dos Santos, from Bahia State, Brazil

For the first time, I was given my own land to work on. Now with water I have two crops already. It gives me more than enough food, and I can sell the grain to pay for fees, medical bills, and extra help in the fields. I can even support my extended family who don’t have their own land. 

– Ipaishe Masvingise, from Gutu District, Zimbabwe

We set up a cooperative around our gardening activities. The standard of living in my community has improved a lot and we now have a better economic situation.  I hope that our group will collect more in our reserve fund so that we can help and assist other members of the community.

– Mavluda Akhmedova, from Dekhanabad, Tajikistan

The paper, in my opinion is a very well thought-out, written and presented document; which I hope will add to the already growing momentum around calling for increased support for and focus on women smallholders.

I hope you enjoy reading this, using this report, sharing it widely.