Last week, in the lead up to World Food Day (Oct 16), I witnessed the true definition of power to the people. Across Africa, over twenty countries came together with a common calling to create a space for women to tell their stories and ask their governments to act on issues that are important to them.
As we are all experiencing, the impacts of climate change are evident on our plates. This is why the Women Food Climate campaign makes so much sense regardless of where one comes from. Hunger, as a result of extreme weather – and its causes – needs to be put in the spotlight.
Speaking to Anne, a woman from Kampala’s suburban area on why she’s supporting the campaign, she did not hesitate to say, “I no longer have a choice over what I feed my family because the prices of food have become extremely high. My mother, back in the village, can no longer send me bags of food as she used to to support the family because the harvests have been so poor. I actually need to send her money for food. She also has the same cry, things have to change to enable my mother grow enough food, that way I will have food too. This is why I am signing this petition.”
Like Anne and many other voices of women from different countries it is evident that women are indeed feeling the impacts of climate change the most, as they have the responsibility of feeding their families. Women farmers currently account for 45-80 per cent of all food production in developing countries.
Climate change affects development and it increases already high poverty levels. The strong statements the campaign has generated particularly inspire me. In Uganda, Oxfam Country Director Peter Kamalingin noted that, “If you do not have food, it is difficult to be active in democratic processes or development.” – a sentiment that resonates with many and could not have been articulated any better at a time when Uganda is gearing up for the next general elections in March 2016.
True to his statement, hunger leaves people even more vulnerable and in Uganda nowhere is more affected than the Karamoja region where rain patterns have been erratic for many decades. This situation is now being seen not only in Uganda, but also across many other parts of the African continent.
Climate change is already eroding food production in Africa and will continue to hit the continent hardest, increasing food insecurity where it is already amongst the worst in the world. This is the time to act, the time to build resilience and strengthen communities ability to guarantee a future where we can all enjoy our rights with no insecurities of any form.
The climate change story needs to be told, and I strongly believe our efforts in the campaign so far have gone a long way in influencing the global agenda. At the World Food Day celebrations in Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni acknowledged Oxfam’s work on climate change in his public address. And at national level I have witnessed great collaboration with partners and communities at all levels.
It is my hope that thousands of people who have signed the petitions across Africa and the rest of the world demanding our leaders to act will be listened to and their voices will count at the table where they will not be present. Leaders, particularly those from Africa, should therefore be sensitive to the needs of the people and their support of women farmers and make concrete commitments that address the impacts of climate change.
Just like the old saying, I think Women.Food.Climate is a true stitch in time – leaders must therefore demonstrate their true leadership and act now to save the continent from adverse impacts.
If world leaders make strong commitments towards tackling climate change at the UN climate talks in Paris it will be a great step towards putting us on the road towards ending hunger, achieving food security and fighting poverty.
I do hope the collective voices will make a significant difference.