Mar 06, 2012
Leading humanitarian organisation CARE's new agricultural programme will provide access to critical resources required for food production to thousands of women smallholder farmers across South Asia and Africa to improve food security over five years.
Atlanta: CARE, the global fighting poverty organisation, announced the start of its new Pathways programme on February 23, 2012. Pathways will enable 150,000 women smallholder farmers and their families over five years in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania improve food security and long-term resiliency by implementing and scaling a model which will improve their access to land, water, markets, agricultural training and services.
The Pathways model is centered on the proven success of CARE's Village Savings and Loans Associations, and will work with community-based savings and producer organisations to build their capacities and skills to "ready" them for additional sustainable agricultural activities, practices and markets. CARE's Pathways initiative is supported by a $15 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which joins additional funders such as AusAID and the Aga Khan Foundation.
"If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated and focused to really be effective in helping poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering and build self-sufficiency."
Poor women farmers in developing countries face widespread discrimination and are often excluded from accessing and using the critical resources which result in adequate food production. Evidence shows that across the developing world women are far more likely than men to have less access to scarce and valuable resources such as land, water, training and markets. Despite being equally active and efficient farmers as men, women access just 10 percent of agricultural credit and less than 10 percent of agricultural extension services in sub-Saharan Africa. This gap results in persistently low yields, food insecure households and childhood malnourishment – 1 in 3 children is malnourished and more than 1 billion people are hungry.
"The plight of women farmers in developing countries is palpable and vital to the families they support," said Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE. "We are thrilled to join The Gates Foundation to help women all over the world increase their income and build better lives and brighter futures for their families and their communities."
Applying CARE's integrated approach to food security, market engagement and women's empowerment, Pathways will reach women who farm fewer than five acres of land and who are not typically served by other development programs. Most of these women live on an income of less than $2 per day and suffer food shortages for at least part of the year. They seldom own the land they cultivate and have little or no control or influence over income and farming decisions in their communities.
Pathways will go well beyond urgent, yet short-term solutions for women smallholder farmers. The model ensures that elements such as strengthening sustainable community-based organisations, empowering women to build agricultural-based businesses, providing essential skills like financial literacy and improved and sustainable agricultural practices, and building self-sustaining relationships between women, their households members, service providers and markets, will ensure the program benefits these women and their communities beyond the five-year life of the program.
Pathways will also evaluate the model's effectiveness and share lessons broadly in the hope that others will learn from and take up the model's approaches.