02 April, 2011

Empowering Women for Agricultural Development

‘An Acre for Every Woman’ demanded
Published in Pakistan Observer (2 Apr. 2011)
Sana Jamal

ISLAMABAD: In an informative world, which is often reminding us of the future threats for instance, food shortage, global warming, and water crisis; it surely is hard to believe that “we live in a world that is capable of feeding every person that lives on the planet” and women can play a dynamic role in overcoming the food mismanagement often termed as food shortage in the country. This point of concern was highlighted at a talk on ‘Food Security and Coping Mechanism’ arranged by National Commission on the Status of Women here on Friday.

In the backdrop of food insecurity and price hike in Pakistan, Head of the Green Economics, Shirkat Gah (NGO), Najma Sadeque initiated the idea of ‘An Acre for Every Woman’ which will “bring life-altering opportunities to balance the gender power dynamics and enhance personal dignity for women in Pakistan” she believed. As researches indicate that “as compared to men, women are more likely to spend their income on the well-being of their families, including nutritious foods, school fees and health care.”

In her presentation, she introduced an alternative idea for producing vegetables on ‘at least 16 (4X4) square feet’ land which can help meet food needs of a person per year. She said that the area will be enough for growing leafy vegetables including spinach and will not only save money but also provide fresh and healthy vegetables at home.

Filmmaker Deneb Sumbul’s documentary, ‘A woman’s harvest’ highlighted the hardships of a rural woman as she gets very little amount as a pay of her hard work on farm. While the short film ‘Mini farming’ was a guide to sow home grown vegetables - a feasible solution to hike in food prices.

A common Pakistani is facing serious food price hike which is also reality, but if there is a food problem, it does not need a technical answer; it needs simple steps such as a campaign to get people to grow their vegetables in their home gardens which would reduce food inflation in the country. This was the simple yet effective step proposed by Ms. Najma.

Food security, poverty reduction and economic development are interrelated and depend critically on improvements in agriculture. To make the inspiring idea of ‘An Acre for Every Woman’ workable, efforts are needed to enable women to contribute more effectively to agricultural development, and it also require policy-makers, development practitioners and agribusinesses to make significant shifts in policy and practice. As we require strategies that focus on increasing food productivity and incomes among small-scale farmers and access to income and employment for rural poor people who lack access to land.
Empowering poor women to gain rightful access to and ownership of land, and advocating for increased social recognition of women’s rights to control and claim productive assets can improve economic status of the country, concluded Ms. Najma.