Women Making a Change in Food Systems Across the Globe
Event: Women at the Forefront of Action for Climate-Resilient Food Systems
Host: Canadian Foodgrains Bank, SOCODEVI, MEDA
Anita Vandenbeld (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development)
MP Vandenbeld represents the Ottawa West- Nepean riding and is an expert on international democracy and human rights.
Isabelle Ahou Fram Tano (Vice-President of the FAHO Cooperative)
Currently based in Côte d’Ivoire, Isabelle has over 20 years of experience in agroforestry and first became a member of the FAHO cooperative before being elected as vice-president. The FAHO cooperative is supported by SOCODEVI, a PROCEED project funded by Global Affairs Canada.
Florence Nduku (Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for HERD)
Based in Kenya, Florence has over 17 years of experience in community development and is the current Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for HERD, a project funded by Global Affairs Canada. Before this, she occupied the same role for the Scaling Up Conservation Agriculture Program (SUCA) in Eastern Africa.
Pilar Martinez (Co-founder and Manager of Cosecha Partners)
With 19 years of experience internationally, Pilar Martinez co-founded Cosecha Partners in Nicaragua. Cosecha is a pioneer social business that works to supply cacao, specialty coffee, and other organic products to the food industry while working to build sustainable incomes for smallholder farmers.
Céline Delhaes (Business Owner of La Belle de Coteau-du-Lac)
Based in Canada, Céline Delhaes became a part of the agriculture sector after training as a computer programmer analyst. Alongside her family, she own a business that engages in dairy production, organic market gardening and berry production, among many other activities. She also sits on the board of directors of Agropur, a dairy cooperative in Quebec.
Arzeena Hamir (Co-owner of Amara Farm)
Based in Canada, Arzeena Hamir worked with West Coast Seeds as an Agrologist from 1997 to 1999 and as the Coordinator of the Richmond Food Security Society from 2008 to 2012. In 2010, she helped launch the Richmond Farm School before she and her family moved to Comox Valley to run Amara Farm, a certified organic farm.
Date: March 18th, 2022
While looking for events to attend for nutrition month, I came across a side event at the UN Commission on the Status of Women called Women at the forefront of action for climate-resilient food systems. This event - organized by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank in collaboration with SOCODEVI & MEDA - focused on amplifying the voices of women leaders in the effort to build climate-resilient food systems. At EWIH, we are all about empowering women to reach for leadership positions, so I chose to attend this event and hear their perspectives on how to grow food systems that are gender equitable and climate-resilient while expanding women's leadership in the agriculture sector.
The event started with MP Anita Vandenbeld speaking about the disproportionate burden women face within agri-food systems. The event was then separated into two-panel discussions, first hearing from speakers that provided a global perspective and second, hearing the Canadian perspective on climate-resilient food systems.
The panel began with the experiences of Isabelle Ahou Fram Tano, Florence Nduku, and Pila Martinez about their pathways to leadership as women. Each explained their journey navigating the agriculture sector and how they became in the position of leadership. One of the questions asked that piqued my interest included:
How did SUCA contribute to gender equality and climate resilience in the communities where you worked?
Florence went on to answer this by expanding on the outcomes of the SUCA program including the success in recognizing women as farmers. She explained that even though women in East Africa were the ones doing the farm work, when it came to registering the farmers of the household, the men's names would generally be the ones put forward. Therefore, the goal of the program was to change the narrative and to recognize the role women play as farmers in their communities. She also explained that the program increased their ability to be flexible in their response to the impact of climate change by not only helping women grow as farmers but also by making sure they have a place to market their produce.
What support do women need to become leaders in climate change adaptation?
Isabelle gave an insightful answer to this question by stating that we must empower women to take action against poverty in the community. She demonstrated how their FAHO cooperative is holding workshops that help women learn how to grow their crops sustainably in the face of climate change.
After a brief pause, the conversation shifted to explore the Canadian perspective, with the panel including Céline Delhaes and Areeza Hamir. The conversation started with the question:
What stood out to you when listening to the three speakers and how does it connect to your experience as a woman leader in agriculture here in Canada?
Céline touched on how she could relate to the passion and experiences of the previous panelists. In addition, she explained a couple of challenges she faced through her journey in agriculture, the biggest being navigating a male-dominated industry. Viewing these men as colleagues who share the same passions as we do can help challenge the idea of conflict between men and women, which is the approach she had taken in the past.
Near the end of the event, the discussion shifted to addressing audience questions. One notable posed to the panelists was around the unequal burden of care and the challenge that it presents for women who aim to become leaders.
Pilar's response was that the biggest question we can ask is how to improve women's participation. In her experience, it is quite difficult to involve women in the agriculture sector in Nicaragua. Her organization aimed to incorporate women in their certification programs, events, and through providing opportunities, particularly in the production of macadamia. Isabelle also pointed out the difficulties that arise from having to leave children at home to work and touched on the inner battle that women often face between work and childcare before suggesting that workplaces must adapt to the needs of working mothers to create sustainable change.
Women have always been at the forefront of the agriculture sector across the globe, but are rarely recognized as leaders. Hearing the experiences of all these women working to change the narrative and become leaders was truly inspiring.
Watch the event here: https://foodgrainsbank.ca/news/action-resilient-food-systems/