RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Women farmers are key in solving world hunger, according to ActionAid, a nonprofit group that fights the causes of poverty around the world.
And while the concept of women in farming is super-hot right now (the Gap even started selling farm dresses and women's overalls this spring), the revolution that's taking place across the country—the feminine approach to farming—might be enough to save the future of food, according to Temra Costa, author of the new book, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat (Gibbs Smith, 2010).
"The future of farming is going to be based on relationships," Costa told a group of aspiring farmers (via Skype) at a Rodale Institute workshop last week, where aspiring and seasoned farmers (mostly women) from Connecticut to Alabama traveled to learn more about organic-farming techniques like integrating cover crops and boosting beneficial microorganism levels to build soil fertility. (The Rodale Institute, located in eastern Pennsylvania, has been a leader in organic research since 1947.) In a feminine approach to farming—and you don't necessarily have to be a female to do it—Costa says growers favor relationships, community, and thinking long-term about how decisions will impact future generations. It's about nurturing, she says, not domination, and working with your community.
THE DETAILS: According to the ActionAid report, less than 1 percent of the agriculture budget is targeted at women in some of the most impoverished countries in the world, even though these women grow a vast majority of the food with little or no training. "One billion people going hungry must be a wake-up call that there’s something very wrong with our farming," says Tennyson Williams, ActionAid's acting regional director for West and Central Africa. The report concluded that by scaling up support to small, sustainable farmers to at least $40 billion per year globally (instead of funding biotech, chemical farming methods that don't work), there would be a 50 percent reduction in hunger and poverty by 2015.