As the world celebrates Food Day, an analysis of policies and public investments in six countries by Oxfam has shown that women farmers are not getting the resources they need to feed their families and communities and adapt to climate change.
This, the organisation noted, exposes a sham in the rhetoric and commitments by countries and donors to shore up the agricultural sector and to focus support on women farmers.
The findings come in year of rising hunger, fueled by conflicts and super-charged weather events. A brutal drought in East Africa pushed millions to the brink of famine; several Category Five hurricanes slammed into the Caribbean and the United States; flooding in South Asia killed more than a thousand people.
Oxfam in the analysis looked at agricultural policies and public investments in Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tanzania and found two major problems.
First, very little money is going to support small-scale farmers and helping them become more resilient to climate change.
Second, it is almost impossible to know how much is really reaching women farmers, a group especially threatened by climate change.
According to the head of Oxfam’s GROW campaign, RashmiMistry, “Climate change is not some far-off threat; it is here now and putting lives in danger”.
He said: “governments are breaking their promises to give more resources to farmers. Women on the front lines of climate change can’t continue to struggle on while waiting for money to trickle down to them. Investing directly in women farmers not only helps them and their families, it bolsters the food security for entire communities.”
Oxfam therefore called on donor governments to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and step up their funding aimed at helping communities adapt to climate change. Developing countries must increase funding specifically for women farmers. African countries must also honor the Maputo Declaration that commits 10 percent of all government spending to go on agriculture development.
These commitments offer huge benefits, since discriminatory attitudes and policies mean women farmers produce about 20 to 30 percent less than men closing this gap would lift millions out of hunger and poverty.
The countries investigated by Oxfam are all struggling to get enough climate adaptation funding. In Pakistan, just 26 percent of the $1.17 billion in climate finance they received in 2014 went to adaptation.
Worse still, as of this May, Nigeria has received only $15 million, for adaptation, a sliver of what others have had. As of last year, multilateral adaptation funding for small-scale farmers totaled just $345 million, far short of the many billions that estimates show developing countries will need.
In Nigeria, volatility of prices, weather/climate change, conflict have made access to food particularly harmful for vulnerable people and this has led to hunger and malnutrition.
Also , Head of Influencing and Public Engagement, Oxfam in Nigeria, Abdulazeez Musa, stressed that Nigeria accounts for 15 percent of under-five child mortalities worldwide, and in the Northern part of the country, starvation has wiped out this age group entirely.
He stressed the need for urgent transformation in food security as Nigeria has no shortage of policies in place that could theoretically support small scale farmers.
“For example, The country’s Vision 20:20 about the economic diversification away from the oil sector; the national agricultural policy with plenty of services to farmers; the Anchor Borrowers program with great linkage to market; the National Agricultural Resilience Framework (NARF) with services for risk management in agriculture, all these policies are commendable”, Musa said.
To make matters worse, Oxfam found that governments do almost nothing to make sure women farmers benefit from these insufficient amounts of climate and agriculture funding. For example, in Nigeria, climate adaptation policies simply “encourage” women to participate in initiatives, but go no further.
These policies do little to support the specific needs of women farmers, like improving their access to land, credit, technical training, seeds, amongst others.
“Poverty discriminates against women, and it is policies and attitudes of countries such as these that reveal why that happens. If governments don’t adopt policies that clearly target women farmers, then they’ll be forgotten and left at the mercy of climate disasters
they did nothing to cause.
“We assume our governments are also worried about worsening global hunger and the inequality and poverty that drives it. But the kind of mealy-mouthed, underfunded policies that Oxfam has investigated will only make people begin to seriously doubt it,” he added.