In the Fight Against Hunger, Women Lead the Way
NOTE: This is a guest post from Anna Kramer, a writer for Oxfam America.
“I wanted to help other women escape poverty,” says Hoang Thi Liem, 53, a rice farmer who lives near Hanoi, Vietnam. “After I attended the training, I saw the benefits of the technique, so I just wanted to share my new knowledge with other women.”
Liem is an expert on an innovative growing method called the System of Rice Intensification. Building on local farmers’ knowledge, the technique requires less water and uses fewer chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers report that rice plants grown this way are generally healthier, have better roots, and are more resistant to pests and diseases.
Though rice farmers who rely on the land are vulnerable to changing weather patterns, methods like this can help them increase their harvests, putting food on the table and generating much-needed income.
Thanks in part to Oxfam America’s local partner organizations, along with the Vietnamese government and farmers like Liem, almost 800,000 Vietnamese farmers are now using the technique — many of them women. In Vietnam, men and women grow rice together; but women do much of the day-to-day planting and weeding, so they benefit from saving time and labor. Local women are also taking the initiative to share their knowledge: A recent study found that a typical woman farmer taught the method to five to eight others.
Stories like this — about the power of local solutions — show how we can fight hunger from the ground up by supporting women. And this month, you can help send a message that these women are not alone in their efforts.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in March, women and men worldwide are teaming up with Oxfam America to celebrate women, like Hoang Thi Liem, who are fighting hunger in their communities. We’ve put together an interactive photobook featuring images from around the world — along with videos, notes, and tweets — and we invite you to join in.
While hunger affects everyone, women and girls especially face an uphill battle. Deep-rooted inequalities make it harder for them to access the resources they need, like clean water, fertile land, or a market to sell their crops. In many countries, women are both the primary food producers and the ones most likely to go hungry.
According to the latest UN figures, 925 million people worldwide don’t have enough to eat. But hunger isn’t about too many people and too little food: it’s about poverty, and inequality. As food prices rise, global crises escalate, and changing weather disrupts our harvests, we need to act now to make sure every person can access the food she or he needs.
Women farmers like Liem face great risks, but they also hold the key to solutions. Whether teaching others, coming up with new ideas, or standing up against injustice, they are often the leaders in the fight against hunger and poverty.
And that’s the message we’re sending with our interactive photobook: Ending hunger starts with women, but it doesn’t stop there. No matter who we are or where we live, all of us can add our voice to the effort.
Oxfam America is an international relief and development organization that creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Together with individuals and local groups in more than 90 countries, Oxfam saves lives, helps people overcome poverty, and fights for social justice.
Photo: Prak Soeun, of Somruong Village, Cambodia, is one of thousands of women rice farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam who are using an innovative growing method to improve their harvests. Photo credit: Soleak Seang/Oxfam America