›The focus on food security on Capitol Hill continued with Wednesday’s House Hunger Caucus panel, “Feeding a Community, Country and Continent: The Role of Women in Food Security.” According to panel organizers Women Thrive Worldwide, “over half the food in developing countries – and up to 80 percent in sub-Saharan Africa – is grown by women farmers, who also account for seven in ten of the world’s hungry.”
The panel illuminated some of the inequities routinely faced by female farmers that often prevent them from using the same inputs as men (tools, fertilizer, etc.), bar their access to credit, and force them onto less productive land.
“Women around the world face unique economic and social barriers in farming and food production,” said Nora O’Connell of Women Thrive Worldwide. “But they are key to increasing food security and ending hunger, and all international programs must take their needs into account.”
Panelist David Kauck of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) cited the State Department’s Consultation Document on the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative: “Economic output could be increased by 15-40 percent and under-nutrition reduced by 15 million children simply by providing women with assets equal to those of men.”
According to the 2008 ICRW report, A Significant Shift: Women, Food Security, and Agriculture in a Global Marketplace:
Women also are more likely than men to spend their income on the well-being of their families, including more nutritious foods, school fees for children and health care. Yet agricultural investments do not reflect these facts. Women in forestry, fishing and agriculture received just 7 percent of total aid for all sectors.One of the most fundamental problems faced by women in developing countries is a lack of basic education leading to illiteracy and innumeracy, making it difficult for women to understand agricultural policy or the fair market values of their products. Therefore, men are much more likely to control valuable markets.
In addition, women are less likely to learn about and adopt new agricultural technologies and best practices. Lydia Sasu, director of the Development Action Association, said that when she attended agricultural school in Ghana she was one of only three women, compared to more than 40 men, in her class.
Women in developing countries rarely own the land they farm, which can make it difficult to apply for credit and extension services without collateral. According to the ICRW report:
In Uganda, women account for approximately three out of four agricultural laborers and nine out of 10 food-producing laborers, yet they own only a fraction of the land. Women in Cameroon provide more than 75 percent of agricultural labor yet own just 10 percent of land. A 1990 study of credit schemes in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe found that women received less than 10 percent of the credit for smallholders and only 1 percent of total credit to agriculture. Women receive only 5 percent of extension services worldwide, and women in Africa access only 1 percent of available credit in the agricultural sector.“The fundamental barrier to women in agriculture,” said USAID’s Kristy Cook, “is access to assets.” Cheryl Morden of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said we have reached the “tipping point,” where action on this issue seems inevitable on the international policy level. However, she questions how quickly that momentum can translate to change on the ground.
The State Department has made improving women’s lives an important part of both their Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative and the Global Health Initiative. ”Investing in the health of women, adolescents, and girls is not only the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in January.
Reproductive health and family planning services will be key to both initiatives. A policy brief by ICRW’s Margaret Greene argues that poor reproductive health can have negative effects on women’s educational and economic opportunities. As Secretary Clinton said, “When women and girls have the tools to stay healthy and the opportunity to contribute to their families’ well-being, they flourish and so do the people around them.”
Photo Credit: “Transplanting at rainfed lowland rice in Madagascar,” courtesy of flickr user IRRI Images.
›CSIS Task Force on Global Food Security released its latest report, Cultivating Global Food Security: A Strategy for U.S. Leadership on Productivity, Agricultural Research, and Trade.
According to the report, “the number of people living with chronic hunger has jumped to more than 1 billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – and those trends show no signs of reversal: between 2007 and 2008, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger in the developing world increased by 80 million. In 2009, as many as 100 million additional people were pushed into a state of food insecurity.” The riots and instability during the 2008 food crisis vividly illustrate the consequences of failing to address this problem.
The report outlines six broad recommendations for policy makers:
1. Develop an integrated, comprehensive approach to food security;At the report’s Capitol Hill launch, CSIS President John Hamre compared releasing think tank studies to “casting bread on the water, most of it disappears.” However the high profile Congressional presence—including co-chairs Representative Betty McCollum and Senators Richard Lugar and Bob Casey—proves that awareness of the global food security problem is growing.
2. Empower leadership (USAID) and ensure cross-agency coordination;
3. Support country-led (and country-specific), demand-driven plans for agriculture;
4. Elevate agricultural research and development in the United States utilizing the land-grant university system;
5. Leverage the strengths of the private sector to encourage innovation and give farmers better access to credit and markets; and
6. Renew U.S. leadership in using trade as a positive tool for foreign policy and development in order to improve stability and economic growth at home and abroad.
“We are summoned to this issue by our consciences but we also know this is a security issue,” said Sen. Casey. Along with Sen. Lugar, Casey introduced the “Global Food Security Act of 2009,” which seeks to “promote food security in foreign countries, stimulate rural economies, and improve emergency response to food crises, as well as to expand the scope of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to include conservation farming, nutrition for vulnerable populations, and economic integration of persons in extreme poverty.”
Representative McCollum introduced a similar bill in the House, but neither has made much headway. Senator Lugar said that he hopes the bipartisan and bicameral nature of their bills will help this issue stay afloat during a particularly toxic political atmosphere in Washington.
The release of the CSIS report and its Congressional support is particularly timely, as USAID just announced the 20 focus countries for the “Feed the Future” Initiative, which are Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia in Africa; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Tajikistan in Asia; and Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and, Nicaragua in Latin America. The White House pledged an initial $3.5 billion over three years for the Feed the Future Initiative, with additional pledges from other G-8 and G-20 members to total $18.5 billion.
In addition, the State Department is in the midst of preparing its first-ever (and long-delayed) strategic doctrine for diplomacy and development, the QDDR, in which agricultural development is expected to have a major role.
Speaking on behalf of the State Department, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Trade Policy and Programs William Craft echoed the previous testimony of Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew on Feed the Future, saying that the United States believes development should be on par with diplomacy and defense, and is both a strategic and moral imperative.
Next up: “Food Security Comes to Capitol Hill, Part Two” on the particular role women can play in increasing global productivity, if given the chance.
Photo Credit: “World Food Day,” courtesy of flickr user JP.
›April 30, 2010 // By Julien KatchinoffViolence due to variations in the monsoon season , high tensions over water and energy diplomacy, and pressures stemming from mismanaged groundwater stocks in the face of burgeoning population growth have all been reported on before.
The latest addition to this thread is disappointingly familiar: escalating tensions between Pakistan and India over the Indus river basin. Pakistan views Indian plans to construct the Nimoo-Bazgo, Chutak, and Kishanganga power plants as threatening the crucial water flows of an already parched nation according to objections voiced by the Pakistani Water Commission at the annual meeting of the Indus Water Commission in March. As a result, all efforts to reach an agreement on India’s plans for expanded hydroelectric and storage facilities in the basin’s upstream highlands failed.
In a recent editorial in the Pakistani newspaper The Dawn , former Indus River System Authority Chairman Fateh Gandapur claimed that new construction amounts to a clear violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT):
“India is building large numbers of dams …on the rivers Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas, including on their tributaries in Indian-administered Kashmir. Together, these will have the effect of virtually stopping the perennial flow of water into Pakistan during a period of six to seven months that include the winter season. Not only will this be a blatant violation of the IWT and international laws on water rights of lower riparian areas, it will also amount to making Pakistan dry and, in the future, causing water losses that will deprive this country of its rabi and kharif crops. Our part of Punjab, which has a contiguous canal irrigation system that is amongst the largest in the world, will be turned into a desert.”Gandapur’s fears, shared by many in Pakistan, are borne out of the desperate situation in which many of their compatriots live. As noted in Running on Empty: Pakistan’s Water Crisis, a report by the Wilson Center’s Asia program, water availability in the country has plummeted from about 5,000 cubic meters (m3) per capita in the early 1950s to less than 1,500 m3 per capita today–making Pakistan the most water stressed country in Asia. With more than 90% of these water flows destined for agricultural use, only 10% remains to meet the daily needs of the region’s booming population. This harmful combination of low supplies and growing demand is untenable and in Karachi results in 30,000 deaths–the majority of which are children–from water-borne illnesses each year.
This harmful combination of low supplies and growing demand is untenable, and may be get worse before it gets better, as Pakistan’s population is projected to almost double by 2050. At an upcoming conference at the Wilson Center, “Defusing the Bomb: Pakistan’s Population Challenge,” demographic experts on Pakistan will address this issue in greater detail.
Recent talk of ‘water wars’ and ‘Indian water jihad’ from Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba and head of Jamaat-ud-Dawah, have played upon popular sentiments of distrust and risk inflaming volatile emotions, the South Asian News reports.
Harvard’s John Briscoe, an expert with long-time ties to both sides of this dispute, sees such statements as the inevitable result of the media-reinforced mutual mistrust that pervades the relationship of the two nations and plays on continued false rumors of Indian water theft and Pakistani mischief. “If you want to give Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Pakistani militants an issue that really rallies people, give them water,” he told the Associated Press.
The rising tensions have echoed strongly throughout the region. For the first time in its 25-year history, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has raised the water issue (long thought to be a major political impediment and contributor to SAARC’s stagnation) among its members during its meeting this week. “I hope neighbors can find ways to compartmentalize their differences while finding ways to move forward. I am of course referring to India and Pakistan,” said Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed, during his address on Wednesday. “I hope this summit will lead to greater dialogue between (them.)”
Prime ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani heeded the calls and responded with a hastily arranged in-person meeting on the sidelines of the SAARC conference. The emerging agreement targeted a comprehensive set of issues, including water and terrorism, and, while unsurprisingly weak on action, set a path upon which the nations can begin to move forward. Speaking about the agreement’s significance, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirumpama Rao told the Los Angeles Times, “There’s been a lot of soul-searching here. We need to take things forward. This is good for the two countries and good for the region.”
The fragile détente faces great hurdles in the months to come, especially if rainfall remains scarce as forecasters predict. Already, local communities in India and Pakistan are venting frustrations over water shortages. On Thursday, just one day after the agreement between Prime ministers Singh and Gilani, several Bangalore suburbs staged protests at the offices of the local water authorities, complaining loudly about persistent failures of delivery services to produce alternative arrangements for water provision despite regular payments by local citizens. Whether local civil action ultimately helps or hinders bilateral water cooperation between India and Pakistan will be interesting to track in the near future and we at the New Security Beat look forward to continuing to engage with readers on the latest developments.
Photo Credit: Mahe Zehra Husain Transboundary Water Resources Spring 2010
›April 27, 2010 // By Dan Asin“Nature is something that is both vulnerable and valued,” Paul Collier said yesterday at the World Bank. “It is being mismanaged…what it has turned into is a series of environmental battles between environmentalists and economists.”
Collier was giving the first public presentation of of his new book, The Plundered Planet: Why We Must—and How We Can—Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. In it, he asserts that disputes between environmentalists and economists often arise from a fundamental misunderstanding on both sides about the unique qualities and purposes of “natural assets.” This misunderstanding, he says, has created a state of natural plunder. In Plundered Planet, Collier elucidates the ethical and economic considerations for the proper management of natural assets, how a greater understanding of natural assets and better environmental management can be achieved, and lessons for development.
Paul Collier will be joining ECSP for an in-depth discussion of Plundered Planet, economics, and development at the Wilson Center in June. Until then, for a more detailed look, check out the New Security Beat’s previous coverage of Collier’s book preview with Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
›Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change,” a fact sheet released by the United Nations WomenWatch, is a cache of information for those interested in climate change’s differentiated impacts on the sexes. The fact sheet synthesizes data from many sources, mostly UN, into concise sections on food security, biodiversity, water, health, human rights, energy, natural disasters, migration, and adaptation–including financing projects and the development of new technology. While brief, each section is well-sourced and offers a list of links to relevant UN publications and websites.
The Heinrich Böll Foundation-Southern Africa commissioned eight case studies examining the relationship between climate and gender in four southern African countries: South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, and Namibia. Examining poor areas deemed to be significantly exposed to the impacts of climate change, researchers found that women in each study “seemed to cope better with the impacts of changing circumstances than the men” and were “repositories of knowledge about crops and climate, the environment, natural resources, food preservation techniques,” writes Belynda Petrie, CEO of OneWorld Sustainable Investments and author of a regional summary report. The studies offered a number of recommendations, including creating national gender indicators, developing gender-sensitive aid programs, and improving access to water.
›“Water conflict is not just about an international river basin and it’s not just about conflict around a well. There’s a whole spectrum of water conflict that we try to get into,” says Sandy Ruckstuhl, senior social scientist at the Center for Complexity Analysis, LLC. Ruckstuhl also teaches a course on water and conflict at the George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
Many students drawn to her course have backgrounds in human rights and approach the topic from a “right to water” framework. Ruckstuhl’s course is designed to expand their views. “This discussion is much broader than a debate around rights. There are all sorts of dimensions to water conflict, to water management, that have to do with different levels of governance, different physical challenges in dealing with the resource, different cultural contexts—there are all sorts of factors that are at play when we talk about an issue like water conflict and water cooperation,” she said.
Ruckstuhl takes her students on an exhaustive journey through 10 case studies, touching on cross-cutting topics, such as environmental security and climate change, and their impacts across a range of critical regions, from deserts in the Middle East and Darfur to the Altiplano in Bolivia. Ruckstuhl’s students also benefit from guest lectures presented by water practitioners and experts in the field, including ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko, Ambassador John McDonald, and the Henry L. Stimson Center’s David Michel.
›lauded by UN-HABITATS’ Christopher Williams and the Wilson Center’s Blair Ruble last week has been formalized in legislation introduced today by Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), and Senator Dick Durbin. (D-IL)
From Modernize Aid:
The Sustainable Urban Development Act of 2010 (S. 3229) seeks to deal with unprecedented growth from enlarging slums, increasing levels of pollution, overburdened transport systems, and the lack of affordable housing. The bill would direct the USAID Administrator to: 1) develop a strategy to foster sustainable urban development; 2) consider establishing a senior advisor for urban development; and 3) establish a pilot urban strategies initiative that will help a select number of cities create a policy framework for future growth and development.In a statement for the release of the legislation, Senator Kerry echoed Williams’ thoughts on the subject of urbanization and U.S. foreign policy. “There is an explosion of urban growth around the globe – already the majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with approximately one billion people residing in slums. The phenomenon of urbanization will be ignored at our own peril. Responsible citizens of the world must consciously harness their creativity and ingenuity to increase the livability, economic viability, and environmental sustainability of our cities,” Kerry said.
Facts about the Sustainable Urban Development Act of 2010:
(From the Press Release, COMTEX)(Summary Courtesy Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX)
* The bill includes a statement of policy that recognizes urban development as an objective of United States foreign policy and overseas development assistance, particularly programs that foster improved urban governance, management, and planning, promote the formal provision of and access to essential urban services and infrastructure, expand access to basic shelter, affordable urban housing, promote economic growth and alleviate poverty, and respond to and prepare for environmental and climatic challenges.
* It directs the Administrator of USAID to develop a strategy to foster sustainable urban development that will update the Making Cities Work Urban Strategy. Specifically:
- Assess the feasibility of establishing a senior advisor for urban sustainable development at USAID, who would provide leadership for coordinated programming, technical support for urban development, disseminate best practices, guide urban programming, and help build the capacity of government officials in developing countries to more effectively manage urbanization
- Consider establishing a pilot urban strategies initiative that would support, through technical and financial assistance, a select number of cities in developing countries by identifying, developing, and implementing long-term sustainable urban development strategies to provide a framework for future growth and development in identified countries
- Review and assess existing or past U.S. programs and foreign assistance strategies designed to improve urban development and ensure that strategies to address urban development and slums in developing countries are integrated into the broader strategic foreign assistance plans of USAID and the Department of State
- Develop a strategy for providing long-term United States support for sustainable urban growth and development initiatives that draws upon the expertise of U.S. city and regional elected officials and professionals, private foundations, NGOs, policy, education and research organizations, United Nations organizations, and multilateral development banks.
Photo Credit: “US Capitol” courtesy Flickr User ehpien
›April 20, 2010 // By Julien Katchinoffcapital of Dhaka. “Deployment of military for water distribution is not a permanent solution,” said Abdur Rahim to the Financial Express, as he waited for water. “We want a permanent way out. The government must rise up to the occasion as it has become a national crisis.”
The Bangladesh military will be assisting the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewage Authority’s (WASA) tanker truck operations and ensuring security as they distribute their water throughout the parched city. Due to the sensitivity of these critical operations, commanding officers have been assigned to monitor each water district.
During an interview with Bangladesh News 24, the WASA chairman promised residents that the military deployment, though becoming a yearly response to seasonal droughts, would be removed as soon as the drought abated, noting that “the army will be withdrawn once the situation improves.”
As a result of a falling water table and an overburdened energy grid, WASA is only able to provide 1.5 billion liters of water a day to a public that requires over 2.25 billion liters. “The situation is turning from bad to worse every day, we stand in long queues for hours for water,” rickshaw-puller Mohammad Salam told Bangladesh News.
In recent days, hundreds of Dhaka residents defied government protest bans and took to the streets to demand clean drinking water. Though currently peaceful, these protests echo similar building tensions in 2006 that culminated in clashes with police and the deaths of 20 people.
Long-term population pressures in Bangladesh and a reliance on groundwater have only served to exacerbate the current crisis. In an op-ed in The Daily Star, Dr. M. Rafique Uddin drew attention to the city’s unsustainable reliance on groundwater supplies and warned that construction trends were forecasting weaker recharge rates for the fragile aquifers. “Because of land-filling, surface water does not percolate and recharge the groundwater table,” he wrote. “It is estimated that we are losing 1-2 inches of water table every year. With more and more land filling and concretization of Metro Dhaka, this rate of groundwater depletion would be worse.”
During a ceremony for a new water treatment plant, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina placed much of the blame on a burgeoning population. Not withstanding, the Bangladeshi government is working to provide its citizens with more water. WASA’s groundwater pumps are currently running at only partial capacity due to a 1,500 megawatt shortage of power. The government hopes a new nuclear power deal with Russia will help address the energy challenge.
The two planned 1,000 megawatt nuclear plants will be critical stopgaps to address current and future demand woes. The plants, however, will only come online in 2017—little comfort for those currently without power or water. Already, as clean water stocks vanish, the Institute of Cholera and Diarrhoeal Diseases and Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) has seen a concomitant rise in the number of people complaining of symptoms of water-borne diseases, such as diarrhea and cholera. Those affected by the shortage will have little respite, as forecasters indicate a continued heat wave for the region for the coming weeks.
Photo Credits: “Access to Clean Drinking Water”, Flickr User DFID
Join the Conversation
- The Year Ahead in Environment and Energy Friday, January 23, 2015
- Scaling the Mountain: Women, Health, and the Environment in Nepal Wednesday, January 7, 2015
- Emerging Priorities for Maternal Health in Nigeria (Abuja and Washington, DC) Friday, December 5, 2014