Community Aldeia Day 3
Panel 1: ‘Women, Food, Farming and Land’n
Jun 15th 2012
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Prize winners from Sudan, Tajikistan, the Gambia, and India presented their work in a side-event titled ‘Women, Food, Farming and Land’ in the Community Aldeia space on June 15th.
Sudan's Zenab for Women Development Organization focuses on the economic empowerment of rural women in Eastern Sudan, where female-headed households equal male-headed households. Although women play an active role in sustaining the region’s vibrant agricultural economy, they are excluded from accessing the economic tools they need to boost their productivity. Zenab provides collateral for bank loans, makes tractors available for land preparation, and helps women rent land of their own to farm. Union revenues are invested in poverty reduction measures, which, as Zenab President Fatima Mustafa Ahmed, explained, will set women free to enhance their participation in decision-making and move towards social and economic equality. Click the picture to the right to view this presentation.
Tajikistan’s Zan va Zamin also works to support women farmers by assisting them in securing land tenure, supporting diversified agricultural methods, and promoting conservation of agro-biodiversity. Through the group’s advocacy efforts, over 1,200 rural women have received land of their own to farm and 50 women have been trained as farm leaders. The organization has resisted prevailing agricultural trends in the country by promoting the conservation of rare native fruit species. Additionally, 20 seed funds and 20 revolving loan funds have been established to provide financial assistance to farmers. Click the picture to the left to view this presentation.
Market access has been a focus of the work undertaken by winning initiatives from the Gambia and India, finding solutions to overcome barriers to small producers in reaching larger markets. TRY Oyster Women’s Association has trained women oyster harvesters in the Gambia in sustainable harvesting techniques and aquaculture. By uniting into an association, the harvesters now have a central point for the processing and packaging of their oysters, as well as training in alternative livelihood options to generate income during the off-season. The group aims to eventually become a regional center for the packaging and international export of oysters. Click the picture to the right to view this presentation.
Similarly, Shashwat has worked with communities affected by the construction of the Dhimbe Dam in India to improve their access to markets. This has involved developing new production activities to cater to specific market demands. Responding to the lack of demand locally for the sale of fish caught in the dam’s reservoir, Shashwat have, since 2009, mobilized women’s self-help groups to raise ornamental fish for sale in urban markets. A founding member of Shashwat, Anand Kapoor, explained that initiatives such as this have allowed the communities affected by the dam to reframe its impacts as opportunities rather than ongoing problems. Click the picture to the left to view this presentation.
Panel 2: Land and Water Management in Central America
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Meeting developing countries’ growing resource needs is a key issue in the Rio+20 deliberations and for sustainable development over the coming decades. The world’s population will have reached an estimated 9 billion people by 2050 – meeting food, water, energy, and land needs for the most marginalized of these global citizens will entail a restructuring of current production and consumption patterns. In the poorer countries of Central America, where these challenges represent a daily reality for rural communities, local organizations have developed innovative means of sustainably managing local resources. Water User Committees, organic farming practices, and preservation of crop genetic diversity are underpinning more sustainable, autonomous, and equitable resource management.
Representatives of Equator Prize winning groups from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua have undertaken initiatives that have empowered Central American communities to strengthen their water and food security by addressing threats to their local natural resource base.
Berta Alejandrina Cúmez García opened the panel by presenting the work of Ixpiyakok Women's Association in Guatemala. The Association, which began as a credit and savings program, brings together 30 groups of Mayan women in Chimaltenango to improve local food security and nutrition through organic family vegetable gardens and seed banks. As well as promoting the cultivation of native heirloom species such as chipilín, quilete, and native chilies, the Association has branched out into healthcare and education provision, with a specific focus on maternal and child nutrition. Children and pregnant women at risk of malnutrition are monitored regularly, and diets are supplemented with fresh produce from the Association’s vegetable gardens. The initiative is a prime example of how biodiversity conservation can contribute to food security. Click the picture to the right to view this presentation.
Next to present was Sarai Salazar Arredondo representing Mexican initiative Environmental and Social Studies Group, which operates in the central mountain region of Guerrero, promoting local access to safe water and training communities in sustainable land management. The organization has reforested more than 500 hectares of land in an important watershed, established more than 60 organic farms, and undertaken terracing over 20 km of hillside to reduce and prevent soil erosion. The initiative is active in 34 communities, and Sarai emphasized the importance of observing communities as distinct units, free to make their own decision under their own authority. Click the picture to the left to view this presentation.
Community empowerment is also central to the work of Centro Humboldt of Nicaragua. Centro Humboldt empowers local communities by supporting them in establishing community water committees to manage and maintain local water resources. To date, 116 such committees have been established, over 40 new fresh water wells have been drilled and 35 community water systems have been repaired. Community water committees are responsible for all aspects of water management, including maintenance and repairs, and collection of water use fees. Through social mobilization and lobbying, the center has had a profound effect on national water laws, including Law 620, which recognizes the role of local committees in managing the resource. Click the picture to the right to view this presentation.
Finally, Nilia Zumilda Duarte presented the work of Honduras’ Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park. This association of village water committees oversees the management of micro-watersheds and trains the local community in reforestation and conservation. A primary focus of the group’s work is ensuring local access to potable water in a region prone to shortages. The connection was made between declining freshwater supply and deforestation, unsustainable agricultural practices, ranching and firewood collection taking place in local watersheds. The association connects water committees who are responsible for maintaining water delivery systems, protecting water 'recharge' zones, and both collecting and regulating water-use fees. Click the picture to the left to view this presentation.
Together these initiatives illustrate the importance of community management for the creation of strong, credible structures to conserve resources. This is particularly important where tariffs are being charged for the use of the resource, for example in the case of water. In the case of water in particular, Felipe Cavazos of The Nature Conservancy, summing up the presentation, pointed out that the likelihood of future shortages makes it increasingly important that communities are organized and knowledgeable about their own resource base in order to ensure that their access to local natural capital is maintained.