Women at the center of climate friendly approaches to agriculture and water use - A report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

This report identifies three principles and two sets of policy-level interventions necessary to enhance water and food security for marginalised communities

IATP  The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy draws on the experiences of the Tamilnadu Women’s Collective (WC), a state-level federation of women’s groups from 1,500 villages, in the context where communities all around the world are struggling to find ways to cope with changes affecting food and water security because of the phenomenon of climate change.

The report argues that many a times, new food and water security policies at the national and international level tend to be narrow, look at each of these issues in isolation and  undermine food and water security strategies adopted by individuals and households from marginal groups. Adaptation strategies to address food security focus almost exclusively on increasing agricultural production, while ignoring health and cultural aspects of the food being produced, and the role of agriculture as a means for rural viability.

At the same time, most current climate proposals on adaptation and mitigation largely focus on developing new technological interventions, without adequate attention to precautionary principles. However, these approaches are based on still-unproven claims.

The report argues that this case study on proven methods and practices by women in arid areas of India provides lessons for more immediate and sustainable alternatives. The WC’s work on food and water security uses a framework of three main principles:

  • Empowerment of women as political actors in society and as co-decision makers at the household level
  • Participation of women in democratic local governance structures
  • Promotion of multifunctional agriculture.

Two sets of policy level interventions emerge from the interventions from the case study:

  • Strengthening local food systems
  • Rebuilding the natural resource base.

In developing this, the women have trusted their traditional knowledge, but have also built on it to enhance productivity and sustainability by selectively and carefully reintroducing both traditional and modern practices. From the perspective of climate change policy, their interventions are synergistic, bringing together an “adaptation strategy” and a “mitigation strategy,” even as they try to ensure food security at individual and household levels.

This case study shows that by selectively and carefully building on firm foundations of their traditional knowledge, and yet seeking ways to enhance ecological integrity while attempting to meet their food and water security needs, it is possible to develop effective, just and people-centered solutions to the food and water crises, without resorting to unproven technologies.

The report ends by arguing that more space should be created for development of national policies that pay attention to synergetic efforts such as those promoted by Tamil Nadu Women's Collective.



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