Closing the Gender Gap in Farming

How are women more vulnerable to climate change? Do women really make up the majority of the poorest around the world? And how can development programs best meet the needs of women and other vulnerable groups in agriculture?

Vets without Borders was able to join discussions on these topics amongst eminent leaders such as Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002), and Prof. Sir Gordon Conway of Imperial College London, at a conference organised by the CGIAR and partners in Paris last week.

Mary Robinson talks about women and men in positions of power opening up space for diverse voices in this audio extract:

Other talks looked at the value of women’s empowerment indicators in evaluating impact (eg. see OECD’s discussion of gender empowerment measures ), and of the role women can play in innovative technology development around agricultural processing (Smallholder women’s empowerment through farmer-participatory design and user-led innovation of labour-saving tools in Malawi, Presenter: Una Murray, National Uni of Ireland Galway).

Going Organic : insights for dreaming big

Tasting organic long beans from the organic farm     Admiring water sprinklers at organic farm

The world of organic can be over-whelming: procedures, certification, testing. Not an easy-access option for small farmers keen to try new farming techniques.

That’s why Vets without Borders and FoA organised an introductory 3-day training for farmers in Dounien village to show them the ropes, explain what is meant by organic and ‘good agricultural practices’ (GAP) and experiment with making their own compost.

The visit to Ban Thaxang, a local organic farm set up 3 years ago and run by 20 households, showed what all this can look like in practice, and gave participants a real vision for dreaming big.

Trainer Ms Phimmasone said “The participants already have animals and some land, but they didn’t know how to make organic compost and use natural pest control. Now they have seen how others are doing it, it will help them to try it themselves”.

Co-trainer Mr Sayvisen added “The next step will be to actually try these new approaches in their own farms. We don’t want to just stop at training, we will help them prepare for new and growing markets”.

For lunch the workshop group tasted samples of fresh water spinach from Ban Thaxang and everyone got to take some vegetables home.

Over the new few weeks, group members will volunteer to work as model farmers to try out these new techniques in their backyards.