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Women play lead role in global food fight

CHERYL TEVIS 01/12/2011 @ 2:33pm Cheryl has been an editor at Successful Farming since 1979.

In most American homes, women shop for and prepare the food that feeds their families. No easy task on a farm when time is short and seasonal work crowds out mealtimes.

But it doesn’t compare to the challenges of women around the globe who spend entire days preparing meals. They walk miles to secure safe drinking water and harvest their food by hand from 3-acre plots.

Jacqueline Morette’s visit to the U.S. last fall brought these struggles close to home. The central Haiti farmer (shown above) heads the United Women’s Association of Pouille, an Oxfam America partner.

Infrastructure and earthquake damage dominate Haiti’s news. A less visible obstacle undermines food security.

“As you might know, we have a big gender gap in Haiti,” Morette says. “We seek to narrow that gap by improving women’s incomes.”

Closing the gender gap in Haiti and other countries isn’t a do-gooder’s cause. It’s a matter of life – and death. Although women own less than 15% of land worldwide, they produce 50% to 80% of the world’s food.

“I’m thankful for training I’ve received, and that as a woman, I’ve been able to take part,” Donalia Lungu, a Zambian farmer says through a translator at World Hunger Day. “I’m thankful because now I can feed my family.”

Lungu was widowed in 1996, with four children to raise. She is receiving training from the Zambian Eastern program that works closely with the Foods Resource Bank.

Morette and Lungu visited Des Moines, Iowa, thanks to the World Food Prize Symposium’s effort to bring farmers from developing countries.

“It’s unusual for women to have a say,” she says. “Because of this training, women are able to speak up and make decisions. They’re trained in fish farming and beekeeping. They learn about sustainable conservation and how to use manure, crop rotations, and cover crops to improve the soil.”

Lungu puts a face on the struggles faced by women in developing countries: 

• Seven of 10 of the world’s poor are women.

• Women own about 1% of the world’s assets and have access to only 10% of the world’s income.

• About 60% of the world’s minimum wage workers are women.

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