Food security is at a risk in the majority of Asian countries, which are homes to millions of people who experience hunger and poverty. The escalating food prices experienced in 2006-2008 and in 2011, as well as rising food price volatility has raised concerns about food security, nutrition and biodiverse ecological agriculture, critically impacting on rural women.
The issue of hunger among women is rooted both in the economic programmes and policies implemented by governments as required by need and greed of neo-liberal forces and by the feudal-patriarchal culture that prevails in many countries. The women as homemakers are the ones expected to put food on the table whether or not there is money to buy food, the best and most nutritious is given to the men because they do the hard work and they earn for the family; and mothers and wives are expected to eat the last and of whatever is left --if there is anything left at all, sacrificing their health and diet.
Yet, rural women are considered to be at the centre of local food and farm systems. They play critical roles in farming, fishing, animal husbandry and forestry. They produce between 60 to 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries – from seed preparation to pest control, from post-harvest to food processing, from meal preparations to marketing.
This huge role in food production makes rural women the key to food security. According to estimates by FAO, bolstering food production by women by 30-40% could decrease global hunger by 12-17%. This would translate to 100-150 million less hungry people in the world.
Given women’s critical role in food security and sustainable agriculture, there is a need to support rural women to take on strong leadership roles, raise their voices from village to country and international levels, and informing opinion- and policymakers about their issues. This will facilitate in their empowerment process, and strengthen the movements in asserting theirs and their communities’ food, nutrition and income security.