Posts Tagged ‘patriarchy’

Occupy Wall Street activists name officer over pepper spray incident


Occupy Wall Street activists name officer over pepper spray incident

Details of senior New York police officer released online as protesters call for disciplinary action to be opened

Hacker collective Anonymnous claimed responsibility on Monday for posting the details, which they said was in retribution for the attack. Photograph: Tina Fineberg/AP


Posted 26 September 2011, by , The Guardian (Guardian news and Media Ltd.),



David Graeber: Rediscovering the radical imagination
Occupy Wall Street: the protesters speak



Activists connected to the Occupy Wall Street protests have published the name, phone number and family details of a senior New York police officer they accuse of using pepper spray on peaceful female protesters at a march on Saturday.

The officer was named in Twitter posts and on various activist websites as NYPD deputy inspector Anthony Bologna, of Patrol Borough Manhattan South.

The posts also cite an apparent civil rights charge against the officer dating from 2007.

YouTube footage of the incident, which has been widely circulated since Saturday, appears to show a white-shirted NYPD officer firing the spray into the eyes of the protesters, who are penned in by other officers with orange netting. As the officer walks away, two of the women crumple to the ground, screaming in pain.

There were several clashes between protesters and police at the march in the financial district on Saturday, during which there were 80 arrests.

Hacker collective Anonymnous claimed responsibility on Monday for posting Bologna’s details, which they said was in retribution for the attack.

The details, posted on a site called Pastebin, included a statement which read: “As we watched your officers kettle innocent women, we observed you barbarically pepper-spray wildly into the group of kettled women. We were shocked and disgusted by your behaviour.”

“You know who the innocent women were; now they will have the chance to know who you are. Before you commit atrocities against innocent people, think twice. WE ARE WATCHING!!! Expect Us!”

Since the post, other activists have followed suit, urging people to call his precinct to complain or to call him directly.

The move drew a mixed response from the Occupy Wall Street activists who have been camped out in Zuccotti Park, in the city’s financial district, for nine days. Many say they were angry about the “brutal and unnecessary” tactics used by police at the weekend.

Hero Vincent, 28, an artist from the Bronx said: “I think it should be out there, so that people know what’s going on and if people want to enter his precinct and ask that he should be fired, they can. We are a peaceful protest. For them to attack us is wrong.”

Vincent, who was arrested for resisting arrest on Saturday, claimed he was kicked in the stomach by officers.

But there was also disquiet over the officer’s family details being made public.

Another protester, who did not want to be named, told the Guardian: “My dad is a police officer and he got a lot of death threats. I don’t know if his family details should be out there. But if the information is correct and he has a rights case against him, I’m extremely concerned that he was put into what was a very tense situation.”

The Guardian asked the NYPD to respond to the naming of the officer and the allegation that he was previously the subject of a civil rights complaint, but a spokesman said the department had not yet decided whether to comment.

One protester, Jeanne Mansfield – who said she was standing so close to the women sprayed in the face that her own eyes burned – claimed other NYPD officers had expressed disbelief at the actions of the senior officer.

In her vivid account of the incident in the Boston Review, Mansfield said: “A white-shirt, now known to be NYPD Lieutenant Anthony Bologna, comes from the left, walks straight up to the three young girls at the front of the crowd, and pepper-sprays them in the face for a few seconds, continuing as they scream ‘No! Why are you doing that?!'”

Despite her attempts to turn away from the “unavoidable” spray, Mansfield, who took part in Saturday’s march with her boyfriend on a whim after “stumbling across” it, said she suffered burning and temporary blindness in her left eye and tears streaming down her face.

She continued: “In the street I shout for water to rinse my eyes or give to the girls on the ground. But no one responds. One of the blue-shirts, tall and bald, stares in disbelief and says, ‘I can’t believe he just fuckin’ maced her.'”

Despite the clashes with police at the weekend, the protesters show no signs of giving up, and similar demonstrations are being planned in other US cities. In Boston, activists are planning a “general assembly” event on Tuesday night.

High-profile anti-capitalist campaigners have lined up to back the protests.

Noam Chomksy is the latest to endorse Occupy Wall Street, sending the protesters a strong message of support that praised them for their “courageous and honorable” action.

Chomsky said: “Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power.”

But the protesters also face a more immediate battle than the restructuring of capitalism. The company which owns the land is beginning moves to reclaim it. Signs have gone up in the park that say camping, tents and sleeping bags are prohibited. NBC New York said unidentified men in suits had been handing out leaflets, with similar warnings.

The station said Brookfield Financial Properties, which owns the park but allows the public to use it, told it that the protesters could be “ordered off the park in the next day or two”.



Occupy Wall Street March Turns Violent

Occupy Wall Street March Turns Violent


Posted 24 September 2011, by Philosopher Artists, David’s Camera Craft,

EXCERPT: Please visit the website of the photographer for more photos and other content. All photographs copyright by davidscameracraft.

Occupy Wall Street march September 24th 2011.
The peaceful Occupy Wall Street protest march turned violent as the NYPD corralled and pepper sprayed the participants. Mass arrests were made and loaded onto a NYC bus further locking traffic. The protest march took a route from Zuccotti Park to Union Square on East 14th Street. The protesters were marching back to Zuccotti Park when the NYPD turned violent. Hitting, arresting and forcing protesters into a small area. At that point a NYPD supervisor yelled shut up to one of the protesters and shot pepper spray into her eyes point blank range and hitting a half dozen protesters (including 3 police officers) when they had nowhere to go. The same supervising officer was seen (photographed) laughing after the arrests while looking at his text messages. The peaceful protest march started as 300 participants but rose to over 1,000 as the event stopped traffic in lower Manhattan. People spontaneously joined the march over a 2 hour period.

Occupy Wall Street NYPD supervisor Pepper Sprays young girl point blank


NYPD making brutal arrests


This supervisor was the pepper spray officer.

This supervisor was the pepper spray officer. I see him and one other person walk up to the female victim and then an arm reach out with pepper spray. Here is a slow motion video and this videoat the 1:15 mark shows him walking up the spot – still haven’t washed off the splattered milk from my shoes. We had to use milk to wash the pepper spray out the woman’s eyes. I still hear her screaming in pain, I can’t believe they pepper sprayed a deaf woman. Her sobbing, saying how much it hurt as we held her head spraying milk into her eyes and on her face. The last time I saw her, we had to flee from the police who were arresting everyone on 12th street. She escaped into a movie theater with the help of others because she still couldn’t open her eyes. After witnessing how much pain she was in I will never forget what this man did on a physical and emotional level to many people on Saturday. He created a war zone. I don’t want to think that all of the NYPD is like this because I also met some very fine members of our cities police force on Saturday. Officers who cared about people and the protesters. I looked around at the police officers who were holding the net around us right after the pepper spray was discharged and they were flabbergasted. Three policemen were in the line of fire and almost got hit. Many of them stared down with sad eyes, not able to let go off the orange barrier to help a human being. They had to do their job but I know concern was in their minds.


Close up of badge


NYPD supervisor who maced woman in face point blank


Occupy Wall Street arrest


Occupy Wall Street - Arrests start early


Occupy Wall Street arrest


Arrested for filming

Occupy Wall Street is the first movement of many more to come. Even with Police violence. All rights reserved (copyright) by davidscameracraft – of course artists need to make money… click on an ad or purchase the full size images – for the advertising… just trying to eat.

(Ed Note: Please visit the original site for more photos and other content, and please support this brave citizen-artist who has displayed the extraordinary courage to speak truth to power. These iconic photographs symbolize the struggle of the 99%. Occupy Wall Street! We are the 99%.)

Officer Bologna

Officer Bologna


Posted 26 September 2011, by OccupyWallSt, Occupy Wall Street,



Late last night we found out which white collar officer had maced our innocent protesters. We did not release this information as we had not yet come to a consensus on how to approach the situation. Earlier today we discovered that this information had already been released.

Yesterday, an NYPD spokesperson implied that we had edited the video to remove incriminating actions on the part of our peaceful protesters. Here are a few different angles and cuts of the event that we had not previously released:






As you can tell, we did not need to edit the video to implicate this officer in a gross and unconscionable crime.

This is the man who maced these young women without provocation.

His name is Antony Bologna. We demand that he is charged for his crimes. We demand that he receives jail time.

We demand that Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly resigns. Not only can he not control his most senior officers, he is involved in actively sheltering them from receiving any punishment.

We demand that Mayor Michael Bloomberg address our General Assembly and apologize for the police brutality and the cover-up that followed.

This was an attempt to make us weak, this was an attempt to destroy or derail our message, our conversation. It has not succeeded. We have grown, we will grow. Today we received unconfirmed reports that over one hundred blue collar police refused to come into work in solidarity with our movement. These numbers will grow. We are the 99 percent. You will not silence us.

Please call:
Mayor Bloomberg: +1 (212) 788-7550
Deputy Commissioner of Public Information: +1 (646) 610-6700
NYPD Switchboard: +1 (646) 610-5000
First precinct: +1 (212) 334-0611

Make our voice heard. Make sure that the world knows that everyone deserves equal protection, service, and punishment.

Remain true to our principles of non-violence.



Luce Irigaray – Quotes

Luce Irigaray – Quotes


Posted 24 September 2011, by Staff, The European Graduate School,


…more than other senses, the eye objectifies and masters. it sets at a distance, maintains the distance. in our culture, the predominance of the look over smell, taste, touch, hearing, has brought about an improverishment of bodily relations…the moment the look dominates, the body loses its materiality.

Irigaray, Luce.



“Sexual difference is probably the issue in our time which could be our ‘salvation’ if we thought it through.

Irigaray, Luce.



Between gods and men, territories are set up. At least in the no-man’s land of the heights of heaven, the depths of hell, and inside the boundary traced by the oceans. Dimensions installed by a cosmogonic trilogy that leaves each term in its generic place. There remains the earth ancestress, a fourth term, that was once the most fertile, that has been progressively buried and forgotten beneath the architectonic of patriarchal sovereignty. And this murder erupts in the form of ambivalences that have constantly to be solved and hierarchized, in twinned pairs of more or less good doubles.

Irigaray, Luce and Gillian C. Gill (Translator). Marine Lover: Of Friedrich Nietzsche. Columbia University Press. April 15, 1991. Hardcover 176 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0231070829.



Is E=Mc² a sexed equation? Perhaps it is. Let us make the hypothesis that it is insofar as it privileges the speed of light over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us. What seems to me to indicate the possible sexed nature of the equation is not directly its uses by nuclear weapons, rather it is having privileged that which goes faster.

Irigaray, Luce. Parler n’est jamais neutre. Éditions de Minuit. 1987. p.110. (Quoted in and translated by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Intellectual Impostures, London: Profile Books, 1998, p.100.)



“The ‘feminine’ is always described in terms of deficiency or atrophy, as the other side of the sex that alone holds a monopoly on value: the male sex. Hence the all too well-known ‘penis envy.’ How can we accept the idea that woman’s entire sexual development is governed by her lack of , and thus by her longing for, jealousy of, and demand for, the male organ? Does this mean that woman’s sexual evolution can never be characterized with reference to the female sex itself? All Freud’s statements describing feminine sexuality overlook the fact that the female sex has its own ‘specificity’.

Irigaray, Luce and Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke (Translator). This Sex Which Is Not One. Cornell Univeristy Press. 1985. Paperback, 223 pages, Language English, ISBN: 0801493315.



Who, surprised and horrified by the fantastic tumult of her drives (for she was made to believe that a well-adjusted normal woman has a … divine composure), hasn’t accused herself of being a monster? Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn’t thought she was sick?

Irigaray, Luce. “Body against Body: In relation to the Mother.” in: Fifth Conference on Mental Health entitled ‘Women and Madness”. May 13, 1980.



Sri Lanka’s women deminers clean up legacy of Asia’s longest war

Sri Lanka’s women deminers clean up legacy of Asia’s longest war

Biruntha Ravichandran, 21, a deminer working for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), searches for mines in a mine field in Kannaddi, located in Mannar district in Sri Lanka (reuters_tickers)


Posted 23 September 2011, by Nita Bhalla, SwissInfo (Swiss Broadcasting Corporation),



MANNAR, Sri Lanka (AlertNet) – Wearing a visor and a protective vest over grey fatigues tucked into black military boots, former housewife S. Dishanty crawls on her hands and knees through dense bush, slowly inching forward and methodically scanning the ground.

A year ago, this 23-year-old Sri Lankan woman was looking after her elderly parents and young son in their war-devastated village. Nowadays, she searches for an instrument of that destruction: landmines.

“My husband went missing during the war. My family and I lived in a camp for displaced people … when we returned home after the fighting, everything was destroyed,” Dishanty told Reuters in a cleared patch of a mine field in Sri Lanka’s northwestern district of Mannar.

Dishanty is part of a small number of women in post-war Sri Lanka who are taking on the risky role of clearing up the legacy left from a conflict which lasted a quarter of a century — and changing age-old views in this conservative and patriarchal, largely Hindu Tamil community.

“I had to find a job to support my family. This job gives me an income and has made people proud of me.”

The Indian Ocean island is in its third year of peace after government forces defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009, but the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) lies buried under swathes of agricultural and forest land, as well as some villages.

After almost 10 years of the army and aid groups “de-contaminating” the island, reports of casualties are dropping. According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, there were six deaths in 2009 compared with 11 the year before.

But experts say there are hundreds of thousands more mines, mainly in the north of the country, which could take another decade to clear.

In an environment where skills are scarce, funding low and pressure high to clear farmland to restart cultivation, women like Dishanty — survivors of the violence — are stepping forward.

“These women work on the front line of the humanitarian demining effort in Sri Lanka,” said Nigel Robinson, country programme manager for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), which counts 75 women among its 750 deminers.


Aid workers estimate Asia’s longest-running modern war left behind as many as 90,000 war widows or women whose husbands just disappeared.

“Many of these ladies head their households — their husbands are missing or were killed in the war — so this is an opportunity for them to earn money to take back to their families.”

As displaced communities return home and begin to rebuild, many women are being forced to change from their traditional roles as carers to providers for families with as many as six or seven mouths to feed.

With a scarcity of skills and jobs in this war-ravaged region, opportunities offered by organisations like FSD — although seen as dangerous and against the traditional view of a woman’s role in this society — have been welcome.

Among the three main demining groups, there are now about 200 women deminers.

The women, like the men, attend a camp for three weeks learning about the types of explosives and landmines they are likely to encounter, plus the skills and techniques required to search and mark landmines.

In the minefields of Mannar, deminers work in searing temperatures in heavy protective clothing, using shears to cut through the overgrown grassland which was once paddy field.

The work is painstaking and stressful — the deminers systematically scrutinise the ground inch by inch, with the potential of a deadly or dismembering explosion ever-present.

But the women say the job, with a salary of $250 (162 pounds) a month and full insurance, provides not only income but also respect, even if they have to spend three weeks at a time away from home.

“I did have concerns about the safety at the beginning, but we have a standard operating procedure and if you are careful and follow instructions, it’s safe,” says Biruntha Ravichandran, 21, who is supporting nine family members.

“People used to come up and say ‘How can a woman do that job?’ But now they ask me to get them a job here too,” she says, smiling as she puts on her baseball cap and heads back to camp after finishing a seven-hour shift.

(AlertNet is a global humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit

(Editing by Bryson Hull)




Women of Corn


Women of Corn


Posted 20 September 2011, by Esther Vivas, International Viewpoint (Fourth International),



In the countries of the Global South, women are the principal producers of food, those in charge of working the land, safegaurding the seeds, gathering the fruit, obtaining water. Between 60 to 80% of food production in these countries is down to women, and worldwide at a level of 50%. These women are the main producers of the staple crops, such as rice, wheat and maize, which go to feed the most impoverished populations of the South. But despite their key role in agriculture and provision of food, they are, together with children, the most affected by hunger.

For centuries, rural women have been responsible for domestic chores, care of people, feeding of families, and cultivation and marketing of surplus from their gardens, and have borne this load of reproductive, productive and community work in a private and invisible domain. In contrast, the principal economic transactions of agriculture, the trading of livestock and bulk buying and selling of cereals in the market, have been carried out by men… occupying the public rural domain.

This division of roles assigns to women the upkeep of home, of health, of education and of families and gives men the management of land and machinery and most significantly the”know-how”, thus perpetuating the roles allotted as masculine and feminine which for centuries and even today persist in our societies.

Nonetheless, in many regions of the Global South, in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, there exists an evident “feminisation” of paid agricultural work. Between 1994 and 2000, women occupied 83% of new employment created in the sector of non-traditional agricultual export. But this tendency includes a marked division of gender; on the plantations, women perform the unskilled tasks such as collection and packaging, while men carry out the harvesting and planting.

This incorporation of women into the paid workplace entails a double burden for women, who continue to carry out the care of their families whilst working to obtain an income from an employment which for the most part is precarious. They can expect worse working conditions than their male counterparts and lower pay for the same tasks, therefore having to work longer to earn the same.

Another difficulty is access to land. In several countries of the South, laws deny women this right, and in those that legally concede tenure, tradition and custom impede disposition to them. However, this problem not only occurs in the Global South. In Europe, many women farmers do not have their entitlements recognised and despite working on the land like their male peers, farm ownership and payment of social security, etc is usually commanded by men. Consequently, women, on retirement, cannot count on any pension, nor have claim to assistance or to payments, etc

The degradation of farmland in these Southern countries and the increase in migration to the cities has provoked a process of agricultural disintegration. Women are an essential component of this national and international migration, engendering a disruption and abandoment of families, land, and processes of production whilst increasing the family and community burden of the women who remain. In Europe, the United States, Canada… migrant women end up taking the jobs that years back were filled by locals, reproducing a cycle of oppression, burden and ‘invisibilisation’ of care, whilst externalising its social and economic costs to the communities of origin of the migrant women.

The incapacity to resolve the current crisis of caretaking in western countries, the combined result of massive incorporation of women into the labour market, the aging of the population, and the non-existent response from the state to these needs, leads to the massive importation of female labour into domestic work and paid care, from the countries of the Global South.

In opposition to this intensive and unsustainable neoliberal agricultural model which has demonstrated a complete inability to satisfy dietary needs of people and a complete disrespect for Nature, and which is especially adverse to women, arises the alternative paradigm of food sovereignty. This deals with the recuperation of our right to determine the what, the how and the source of what we eat; that the land, the water and the seeds are in the hands of small farmers (male and female); and the fight against the monopoly of agrifoods.

And it is requisite that this food sovereignty is profoundly feminist and internationalist, and that its accomplishment will only be possible from full equality between men and women and free access to the means of food production, distribution and consumption, along with solidarity among peoples, far from the chauvinistic cries of “ours first.”

We must reclaim the role of women farmers in food and agricultural production, and recognise the part played by the “women of corn”, those that work the land. To make visible the invisible. And to promote alliances between rural and urban women, from the North and the South. To globalise a resistance… feminine.

-Esther Vivas is a member of the Centre for Studies on Social Movements (CEMS) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. She is author of the book in Spanish “Stand Up against external debt” and co-coordinator of the books also in Spanish “Supermarkets, No Thanks” and “Where is Fair Trade headed?”. She is also a member of the editorial board of Viento Sur.

Other recent articles:

Ecology and the Environment

The years of 9/11 – September 2011


Food crisis

The whys of hunger – August 2011

Climate change and food sovereignty caravan – April 2011



Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security


Women and Agriculture: A Conversation on Improving Global Food Security


Posted  19 September 2011, by Staff, United States Department of State,




Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Intercontinental Hotel
New York City
September 19, 2011

Moderated by Nick Kristof

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States; Nick Kristof, moderator and columnist for The New York Times; Reema Nanavaty, director for economic and rural development for the Self-Employed Women’s Association; Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever; His Excellency, President Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania; Kathy Spahn, president and CEO, Helen Keller International; Dr. Jose Graziano Da Silva, assistant director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, thank you very much and welcome to all.  You will have the opportunity in just a few minutes to hear from all of our distinguished panelists.  In addition to those who have been introduced, I want to recognize the UN Food and Agriculture Organization director general, Mr. Jacques Diouf.  Thank you, sir, for being here.  (Applause.)

I also want to recognize a longtime friend and leader in efforts against poverty and on behalf of human dignity, Dr. Muhammad Yunus.  (Applause.)

And on a personal note, I am pleased that I will be joined shortly in this program by USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah and I’m also pleased that one of our two congressional representatives, Representative Russ Carnahan from Missouri, is here.  So welcome to one and all.

And it’s a great pleasure for me for the third year in a row to meet during the United Nations General Assembly to focus on an issue that is critical to the global economy, global health, and the prosperity and well-being of billions of people worldwide:  agriculture and food security.

I don’t need to tell this audience that while we meet here in this beautiful hotel, nearly 1 billion people are suffering from chronic hunger, and in the Horn of Africa we are seeing the devastating impact of acute hunger and starvation.

Now, at the root of the crisis in the Horn of Africa is a man-made problem.  And we are all working together to try to alleviate the suffering and to save lives, and we’re also as an international community sending a very strong plea to the group al-Shabaab, which is continuing to prevent humanitarian organizations from getting aid to the people who need it, primarily women and children.  As a result, the United Nations warns that up to 750,000 people living in famine-stricken areas of Somalia could die in the next 120 days.

Now, all of us – my country, the international community – are supporting organizations that are saving lives, and we’re going to continue to do our part and we are going to redouble our efforts to press al-Shabaab to let us help.

Later today, USAID Administrator Raj Shah will outline ways that the international community and people all over the world can get involved in supporting those who are suffering in the Horn of Africa.

As we respond to this and other immediate crises, it is imperative that we stay focused on the long-term goal of strengthening global agriculture in order to produce more food, more nutritious food, and reduce hunger.  The United Nations estimates that we need to increase global food production by 70 percent by the year 2050 in order to meet growing demand.  That is a very serious challenge.

So what are we going to do to meet it?  Well, one way that we know would yield significant results is investing more in women.  This comes down to a simple matter of numbers.  Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many developing countries.  They’re involved in every aspect of agricultural production, from planting seeds to weeding fields to harvesting crops.  Yet women farmers are 30 percent less productive than male farmers, for one reason:  they have access to fewer resources.  They certainly work as hard and they, like farmers everywhere, are at the mercy of nature.  But these women have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, less access to training and the ownership of land.

As a result, they grow fewer crops, which means less food is available at markets, more people go hungry, farmers earn less money, and we’re back in to that vicious cycle.  The production gap between men and women farmers disappears when that resource gap is closed.  If all farmers, men and women, had access to the same resources, we could increase agricultural output by 20 to 30 percent.  That would feed an additional 150 million people every year.

And the incomes of women farmers would increase, which means more financial security for their families and more money circulating in local economies, which in turn will help other businesses grow.  Furthermore, because women tend to devote more of their money to the health, education, and nutrition of their children, a rise in their incomes pays off over generations.

In the report provided to you today, you will find several examples of the progress that can be achieved by supporting women farmers.  In Ghana, for example, if women and men held equal land rights, and if they both had the ability to use land as collateral to make major investments like irrigation systems or draft animals, women farmers would double their profits from farming.  Multiple studies in places from Honduras to Nepal, from the Philippines to Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia, find that when women are involved in the design and field testing of new technologies, those technologies are actually adopted more rapidly, which increases productivity and incomes faster.

It is for reasons like these that the United States has focused on women farmers and our Feed the Future Food Security Initiative, which is a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy in the Obama Administration.  We have worked closely with our partners, including other nations, NGOs, private sector companies, and of course the multilaterals, to help make reaching women farmers a top priority for everyone working on this issue.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that the United States is allocating $5 million this year for a new gender program within Feed the Future.  This money will be used to fund innovative approaches to promoting gender equality in agriculture and land use and to integrate gender effectively into agricultural development and food security programs.  It will be used to expand our knowledge base.  We know that women farmers represent a major untapped resource, but we don’t know nearly enough about which approaches will change that.  So we need concentrated research about the obstacles facing women farmers worldwide so we know how to remove them, so women can contribute even more.

I would urge everyone here today and everyone working in this critical field around the world to bring us your best research proposals and programs to support women farmers.  We are looking for good ideas to support.

Conversations like the one we will have here today make me hopeful that we will succeed.  We have with us a distinguished panel of experts who will help us better understand the policies, programs, laws, and societal changes we must make in order to unleash the full productive capacity of women farmers.

I’m very pleased to welcome Nick Kristof as our moderator.  As many of you know, he and his wife, the journalist Sheryl WuDunn, have written a book Half the Sky about the role of women in society.  And they write, “Women and girls aren’t the problem.  They’re the solution, along with men.”  As we will discuss today, and as the short film we are about to watch on the role of women in agriculture will underscore, that’s a reality that we need to embrace worldwide.

As I said last week at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, I believe we are entering the participation age, with political transitions opening opportunities for people to shape their own destinies, and economic transformations creating new platforms for broad-based growth.  Every individual, men and women, boys and girls, everyone is poised to be a contributing and valued member of their societies.  When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and the world.

So let us now turn our attention to the film – I think that’s the next item on the agenda – and then following the film, our moderator, Nick Kristof, will come to the podium or maybe sit here.

MR. KRISTOF:  I think I’ll – I’m lazy, I’ll sit here.

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  He’ll just sit here to moderate our discussion.  Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

(The film is shown.)


MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you all very much for coming.  If you’re from out of town, then welcome to New York.  We have a terrific panel, and I’m going to start by asking each of the panel members a question or two, then we’ll move onto a bit of a conversation here and then open it up to questions as well.  Secretary Clinton has to leave at 2 o’clock, and at that point, she will be succeeded by Raj Shah right here very seamlessly.  And it truly is sort of extraordinary for a Secretary of State to be hosting an event focusing not only on agriculture and food, but on a gender focus to improve that.  This is really something very new it seems to me.

And so, Secretary Clinton, maybe let me start with you, and you’ve made the economic case for investing in women to improve agriculture.  You also just gave an important speech a couple days ago for APEC on the same thing, but there’s still this gulf between this research, the evidence that you cited, the economic case, and the actual investments that happen and what actually happens on farms around the world.  So – and also I think that there’s – everybody in the room probably frankly agrees with you, but there are an awful lot of skeptics out there who think this is just kind of the latest politically correct fad.  So how do we go from bridging that evidence, that economic case into actually having an impact on the ground?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Well, Nick, I think that’s the stage we’re at, and I’m very pleased we are at that stage because up until now, many of us have been making the case.  We’ve made it on moral grounds, on cultural grounds, on social and political grounds, and we’ve seen progress, but I think making the case on economic grounds is what finally begins to open minds and change policies.  It is clear to us who are in this room – this is like preaching to the choir because I look out and I see so many leaders from around the world who have been working on agricultural and food issues, on gender issues, on poverty issues – it’s clear to us that the case now can be made.  We didn’t even collect data for decades.  We had no way of knowing what additional inputs provided to women farmers in Tanzania or Brazil or Bangladesh or anywhere else would actually mean.  And therefore, it was a harder case for us to make.

But since we’ve been gathering such data – and I thank FAO and other organizations that have been leaders in doing this – we can now put this movie together and talk about what happens when you have a leader like President Kikwete, who focuses on agriculture, creates corridors for agricultural productivity, and further focuses on making women more productive.  It works.  So you’ll hear from the champion architect of the Zero Hunger Program in Brazil.  It works.  So now when we go to heads of state or parliaments or international bodies and we make the case, it’s no longer that we’re making a case rooted in our sense of equality and justice and morality; we’re making an economic case that it’s going to raise incomes, it’s going to increase productivity, and given the economy in the world and given the severe challenges our food systems face, this is now an argument that can no longer be ignored.

MR. KRISTOF:  You alluded to this a moment ago when you mentioned the $5 million for research, but can you just speak briefly about what the government, what the Administration is planning to do to build that economic case and to make it at home and around the world?

SECRETARY CLINTON:  I can.  Let me give you a few examples.  Let me start with land reform, which is one of the most challenging issues that demands major political commitment.  If we do not have land reform that gives women co-ownership rights, gives women inheritance rights, we won’t crack the code on greater agricultural productivity because the women need to have more financial security, to be protected in case they’re widowed.  I mean, really some of the saddest stories that I’ve encountered in 20-plus years of doing this work are widows who are pushed off the lands that they tilled with their husbands.  And if we don’t protect against theft and give greater investment incentives, then we won’t get the productivity that is promised.  So Feed the Future will work on land reform.  Feed the Future will also support entrepreneurship development to encourage agricultural growth sector.

For example, in Mali, Feed the Future addresses women’s limited access to finance by providing training in financial management and completing loan applications.  I mean, it’s one thing to go to a woman farmer and say, “Gee, you could get credit.”  Well, they’ve never done that in their lives, and they’ve got to have support in understanding that.  And we know that land reform doesn’t have to be complex.  Let me just end with this one example.

In Ethiopia, the government is instituting a simple remedy:  Joint titles that have room for the names and photos of both husbands and wives.  It’s these kinds of interventions that we can draw attention to because then a woman’s photo, her name, is right there on the land title, and nobody can come and push her off her family land in the event she is widowed.

So there’s a lot of ideas, but that’s why I’m inviting this very distinguished group to give us more and better ideas, because we are open to making policy investments and research projects that will help us develop a new index to determine women’s productivity and access to resources, and to make sure that that’s then shared not only within Feed The Future and our own government, but broadly across the international community.

MR. KRISTOF:  President Kikwete, Secretary Clinton alluded to your focus on agriculture.  You also spent a lot of time in rural Tanzania listening to people.  I wonder to what extent does this make sense to you?  In Tanzania, are investments in women and agriculture going to get a better return?  What is the situation like in rural Tanzania, for example?

  Well, first, let me thank Secretary Clinton for convening this discussion and for inviting me this time.

Well, the truth of the matter is women are the major labor force for agriculture in Tanzania, I think for the rest of Africa.  They do the work of the farm, they till the farms, they take care of the farms, they hold harvest, and the men will take the crops to the market and take the money – (laughter) – and decide how to spend that money.

And for polygamist cultures of ours, the view is that very same money made another wife from the labor – (laughter) – of the one.  This is – but of course, the – of course, we are poor, but women are poorer than men in Africa.  The majority of us live in rural areas – Tanzania 80 percent.  We depend on agriculture, if we have good returns, to make an impact on alleviating poverty, then tackle the agricultural question.  Because agriculture is backward, agriculture, little use of science and technology in production.  The hand hoe, as you saw in the picture, is the dominant technology, very little mechanization, and because it’s the women who are working, then the women shoulder all this burden.

But women don’t own property in many of our societies.  They don’t own the land; the husband owns the land.  The women work on the land.  So what we really need to do to help the women, one is make sure that women have access to property.  And of course, it’s cultural, because in our country, for example, there are some societies where the girl child doesn’t inherit anything from the father.  It’s cultural.  But anyway, we’ve got to look into ways of changing some of these cultures.  Of course, some of them, we do it through legislation.  We make legislations that override the traditional cultures.  So if the lady continues to use the traditions, go to the local chiefs, she’ll be subjected to the cultures.  But if she goes to the national courts of law, then she gets these advantages.  So we’ve been trying to use the legislation to try to help women.

But of course, we need to help women get the inputs, get the high-yielding seeds, get the fertilizers, get the pesticides, the herbicides, but also benefit from mechanization.  We cannot continue to leave the women continue to till the land using the hand hoe.  Of course, it is a question of government policies on making these inputs available.  In our case, we have subsidies, subsidies for seeds, for fertilizers.  We have also studied a program of making small tractors available in the rural areas at affordable prices, where the government also subsidizes these prices.  But of course, one thing also important is credit systems; make it possible for women to access – to have access to credit so that they can get the input and so on.

MR. KRISTOF:  Mr. President, if one gives those – that kind of assistance to women, though, isn’t there a risk of a backlash among men, a sense of resentment that may undermine output?

PRESIDENT KIKWETE:  Well, of course, those who enjoy privileges will always like to – to maintain them is not easy, but I think times are changing, also, because times are changing with education, with economic realities on the ground.  You find less and less of the younger men having the inclination of becoming polygamists.  It’s more an old tradition, because it gives you – it’s many challenges.

Of course, those who remain traditional will have problems with that, but I think times are changing.  Times are changing with education and so on.  We don’t have a bigger problem now and we will not have a bigger problem in the future as more and more people have access to education and modern ways of living.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  Reema Nanavaty, this is your life’s work.  This is what you do every day in Gujarat and around India.  So can you tell us what the lessons are that you’ve learned?  What does work, specifically?  Where is there sort of robust evidence of an intervention that actually – in terms of gender, that actually does improve nutrition and improve agricultural output?

MS. NANAVATY:  Thank you so much, and thank you, Secretary Clinton.  I carry a special message from our president, whom you had met.  And when I read out the invitation, she said, “Oh, please do,” that the president is now thinking of the right thing that the world needs, and please share our experience that – how did we turn the food crisis into a development opportunity.

So what I’m going to share today in some of our lessons is the work of the 1.5 million women members that, today, I speak here on behalf of.  And I think the first and the foremost is organizing – organizing, first recognizing women as farmers, organizing them.  It’s a first, a must, and no shortcut to that.  And I think we also feel that once organizing women around work as farmers, getting meaningful productive work, then women are also, we feel, much more stable,
much more future oriented, and they build communities which are eager to take on new information, new opportunities.  And that’s what our whole experience – when we had the food crisis looming around, how we organized not a few thousand but around 254,000 women farmers.  We began from Gujarat, and this is their own agribusiness company.

So I think one lesson is that one has to invest in women, in poor, and letting them build their own agriculture based or farm-based enterprises.  And today, I think, as a result of our agribusiness initiative, we have our own brand, which touches around 1.1 million households and ensures them nutrition and food security.  We call – it is RUDI.  This is also our rural distribution network, and as a result of that, women have taken charge.  And we have around 4,000 seed banks.  We have fodder banks.  We have grain banks in 4,000-plus villages as well.

So I think this is – say that how do you integrate the financial market, the labor market, and the community market.  And it has to happen at all levels – the local, the national, and the regional and international levels.

MR. KRISTOF:  And one of the problems in development is that often something – either you experiment with something and it’ll be a wild success; you try to scale it up and it’s much less successful.  So how do you go from some kind of a small-scale success to actually scaling up the kinds of things we’re talking about so that they really work on a large scale?

MS. NANAVATY:  I think we all need to be much more tolerant, much more patient in order for women to scale up their own initiatives.  And our experience of four decades now shows that when (inaudible) in women in their enterprises, women are able to take it to scale.  I think the barriers are that the governments, the financial institutions, the private sector – everybody needs to come together and invest in women-owned, women-managed, and women-led enterprises in the field of agriculture.

Today, our RUDI is not only scaling itself in India alone, but we are taking it to Afghanistan, we are taking it to Sri Lanka, we are taking it to Nepal.  We have sisters who come from Ghana, who come from Malawi, and they all want to take it to their – into their folds.  So I think one has to invest, and basically it’s the governments, the private sector, and the financial institutions.  One – they need to invest so that women have access to and also control over land and grains and information, both.  And then they are able to integrate themselves into the mainstream markets.

One of the things I’ve learned is the degree to which business can be a huge engine for change.  And so Paul Polman, you’re from that world.  Can you talk a little bit – at Unilever – about how you go about making these kinds of business decisions and whether it is increasingly apparent in the business community that there is a real business case for these investments that put more money in the hands of women farmers, for example?

MR. POLMAN:  Yeah.  I’ll start – well, first of all, again, thanks for the opportunity as well to be here.  I’ll start with a confession.  To be honest, before I was on the panel, I really did not spend much time to look at it from an angle of women.  Now, I apologize for that, but then it became very apparent that when I looked at all the examples – I’m chairing right now a task force on the G-20 for food security, for example, leading up to the November meetings.  And the more examples I looked at, that – just the women kept popping up, and it was very, very clear that looking – not surprising, no? – looking at the programs that we are working with, that most of that is actually driven by women.

When we select things – to be honest, we are a 65 billion company; we buy agricultural materials, about 12 billion worth a year.  Fifteen percent of the world tea was our brand, Lipton, and some other things.  But it’s very clear when I called our people and I said, “Look at our tea plantations in Muvindi and – which is in your territory – or in Kericho in Kenya, the bulk of them are women.”  And then I said, “Are they more productive or not?  Because I have to be on the panel.”  (Laughter.)  And they are, so – (laughter) – so just to know.

The – and I was looking at the report we were writing for the food security, which goes to Sarkozy, and the U.S. Government has been actively involved in this as well, and getting the B-20, as we call it, the Business 20 input into the G-20.  And again, I’m ashamed to say we look at all the recommendations we make on increasing investments in agriculture, R&D, making it more sustainable, looking at nutrition as a driving factor, all the things that I’m sure you’re all well familiar with.  But again, we failed to look at it from the angle of women.

So one of the commitments I made this morning to someone – and I’ll make it here publicly – that I’ll take this report back home, and it cost me a few more hours, but we have to write it also from the angle of if we – with these statistics that the Secretary shared with us – if we could make that come alive, indeed it will go a long way to filling the gap of the 70 percent that we need in production to get to the 2050 targets.

The way we now – if I look at our programs, to be honest, from our company’s point of view, be it the small-hold farmer projects that we – that we’re having, originally a company like ours, with the volumes we need, you go to the world market, the ADMs, the Cargills, some of the origin markets, be it palm oil from Indonesia or Malaysia.  So that’s how you buy 80 percent, and otherwise, you simply cannot get the quantities you need.  But increasingly, it is important that we look at this a little bit differently and take core responsibility of some of the challenges that we’re facing on the same food, energy, water nexus that we’re talking about and going to tremendously more sustainable sourcing.

So we as a company have made a commitment to source all of our agriculturally based materials sustainably by 2020.   And that’s not an easy thing to do, and we will do that with small-hold farming.  And one of the reasons we’re sitting next to each other as a coincidence is not only finding it’s – we’re all on the same panel, but the green growth corridor in Tanzania, for example, is a wonderful example for us.  We currently work with about a million small-hold farmers.  We have made a public commitment to add another 500,000.  Again, not surprisingly, most of those will be women, and increasingly under an angle of the social, equitable, and sustainable elements of that.  And that is now becoming increasingly a part of our sourcing strategy.

MR. KRISTOF:  Kathy Spahn, one thing that I’ve learned from your organization, Helen Keller International, is that one of the keys of nutrition is not just calories, but is micronutrients.  And are we – I mean, have we become too focused on sort of quantities in trying to address this?  And do we kind of need to change the way we think about promoting nutrition and getting – and what women, indeed, need to focus on?

MS. SPAHN:  Well, first, I thank you for a question that is so near and dear to the lifeblood of Helen Keller International, but I also want to thank Secretary Clinton not only for convening this panel, but for ensuring there was a seat for civil society on the panel.  It’s very much appreciated.

And yes, we do need to take a broader view.  Calories are important.  They provide energy, but that’s not enough.  We need to ensure that foods are nutritious, and there’s a difference between food and nutrition.  You need to have food that has vitamins and minerals in it, what we call micronutrients.  A lot of staple crops that we’re talking about growing in larger quantities – maize, rice, cassava – they provide energy in their calories, but they are lacking in the micronutrients that are essential to meet the nutritional needs of very young children, and also to meet the nutritional needs of women of reproductive age.

Micronutrients like vitamin A, iron, zinc – they’re essential for physical and cognitive development.  They’re essential for the immune system to function properly.  So children who grow up deficient in those micronutrients can have really negative consequences in terms of their survival, in terms of health, in terms of growth, in terms of productivity.

Take vitamin A, which is at the core of our work, and it’s found in dark green, leafy vegetables; in orange fruits, the really good ones like mangoes and papayas; in egg yolks; in liver, vitamin A is essential to prevent blindness in young children, but it is also essential for child livelihood and child survival because vitamin A is necessary for immune system function.  So a child who gets calories that don’t have vitamin A in it is not going to be able to fight off common illnesses, whether they get a respiratory illness, they have diarrhea, a child who’s vitamin A deficient may die because their immune system can’t fight that off.  And in deference to the Secretary’s remark about the need for research and an evidence base, there is a solid evidence base about this.

Another key micronutrient that you’re all familiar with is iron.  Deficiencies in iron can result in reduced IQ in children, increased risk of maternal mortality, and decreased worker productivity from anemia.  And in times when food prices go up, what happens is that poorer families, to save money, buy the cheaper staple foods that are lacking in the micronutrients because micronutrient-rich foods – milk, meat, fruits, and vegetables – are much more expensive.  And this can have a horrible impact on growth and on health.

But there are solutions; I think that’s a key message.  There are solutions in supplementation with vitamin A, with zinc, with iron, but we also need to look, as we are today, at broader food base solutions.  So food fortification, wherein the processing of staple foods like cooking oil, you add vitamin A or in the milling of wheat flower, you add iron folate.  And then as we’ve been talking about, there is the agricultural aspect.  Homestead food production is a great example of community-based, women-centered, small-holder agriculture.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  If Kathy had her way, you would all come up and go away with a little pack of micronutrients or orange-flesh sweet potatoes or something as you left.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON:  And you’d be happy.  (Laughter.)

MR. KRISTOF:  Yeah.  And full of vitamin A.

Dr. Da Silva, you – in Brazil, you wrestled with and made extraordinary progress in these areas, but there must have been enormous cultural battles along the way when you did, indeed, put more emphasis in bringing women into the front.  So I wonder what lessons you can offer us from Brazil’s experience, from your effort there about how one can overcome these kind of cultural obstacles and how one avoids a backlash among men.

MR. DA SILVA:  Well, thank you for the question and thank you for an invitation, Secretary Clinton.  Yes, I would like to emphasize another – let’s say the other side of the coin – women’s not important for food production but also for food access and distribution.  This is the – perhaps the – in my opinion, the DNA of the mother.  The mother is who distributes the food in the house, especially (inaudible).  In Brazil, people that are hungry, they are hungry because they don’t have money to buy the food.  We have lots of food.  We are big exporters.  So the problem is how to access the food.  And what we did was to have a kind of cash transfer that’s more or less a Brazilian version of the food stamps.  In fact, I have spent six months in Santa Cruz, California searching for a good practice because this is another lesson.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do good things.  You just copy and adapt them.

And that’s exactly what we did.  We give to the mother a credit card – a visa credit card like that to buy food.  And why did we give her the money?  The reason that the president of Tanzania told us:  because when the man get the money from the market to the house, it disappears part of the money.  (Laughter.)  And money – mothers are sure that food first is not a slogan.  So we have been able to progress quickly in the (inaudible) and especially nutrition as we suffer from the (inaudible) in that sense.  There were resistance.  For sure there were resistance.  We – in the first moment, we made some legal consultation formally to the supreme court, and after we have been recommended to put in a law, now it’s a law in Brazil that the preference goes to the women.  So we have now around two million families receiving this kind of cash transfer, and 90, 95 percent goes to the mother.

How to avoid the resistance, involving civil society, especially organized civil society, but also the private sector.  From the beginning, from planning to implement the program and keep monitoring closely the program to – well, to find a way out of the problems.  It’s a big mistake if you try to make a pilot and then try to scale up.  As you said, this will incentivize immigration across the country from poorer areas to the cities, et cetera.  We try to do our best to do it quickly; not in a hurry, but quickly with participation of the organized society.  And it works.  And at the same time, it was very important to have the president directly involved, in fact.  This is an issue that the president should address directly his commitment, his self, to push the program.

And the whole idea of the Hunger Zero Program, let’s say the more important, is to improve local markets because when you have subsistence agriculture, poors live in poor areas, especially in rural areas.  Their – what they have is subsistence agriculture.  This is not enough to push local development.  So you have to, with the cash transfer, you give (inaudible) to improve local pushers power locally.  And you take this opportunity to implement structural programs like planting reform, like settlements, giving to the women the land rights, et cetera.  All of those things need to come together.  It’s false that you need urgency first and then structural change; you need to address both at the same time.

MR. KRISTOF:  Thank you.  At this point, we’d like to welcome Raj to join us and thank Secretary Clinton for joining us and for a really terrific engagement here.  (Applause.)
PRN: 2011/1535



Ecology and Freedom


Ecology and Freedom


Posted 12 September 2011, by Staff, Because We Must,



How are we to understand the freedom of the earth? Often these discussions are riddled with the indefinites of human language and the vague conceptions of “nature”, “earth” and “freedom”. We must move beyond the indefinite and the visceral and achieve understanding, respect, and reverence if we are to at all move beyond the destruction, exterminations and oppression.

The Ethics of Reverence

There is a rich history of analysis and critique of human interactions with the whole of natural world. Upon further examination, this body of work amounts to a study of human ecology as it relates to the larger ecological history of the planet.

For most of written human history, there has been a long and controversial discourse surrounding the meaning and value of human and nonhuman life, the ways in which human society should structure itself in relation to nature (if at all), and the duties we owe (if any) to the rest of life and why. In western history alone this dialect has existed since Pre-Socratic thought through Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Bentham, Kant, Darwin, and into contemporary sociopolitical dialogue.

In the world of academia, perhaps the most substantially influential writers have sprung up in the last century and in particular the last few decades.

In 1949, Aldo Leopold published A Sand County Almanac, a book that famously launched the field of environmental ethics and advocated for what Leopold, referred to as “the Land Ethic”. Leopold’s “Land Ethic” stated simply that, “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Murray Bookchin

In 1962, Murray Bookchin began his rich career of ecological writings with Our Synthetic Environment. This book outlines the dangers of industrial society and in particular its reliance on synthetic pesticides. 20 years later in 1982, Bookchin published his seminal work, The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy. This work is a thorough social, political, and historical analysis of the inequalities of human society as it relates to natural ecology.

The same year that Bookchin published Our Synthetic Environment, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a book often credited with launching the modern western environmental movement. The book deals also deals with the problems of pollution and pesticide use.

In 1973, Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess coined the term “deep ecology” in his essay, “The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecological Movement”. Deep ecology is a complex and varied theory of ecological wisdom, one that is often viewed as radical for asserting the equality of all living things and promoting a dramatic restructuring of human society. Bill Devall and George Sessions further developed deep ecology with their 1985 book, Deep Ecology: Living as if Nature Mattered. Deep ecology later became the battle cry for most radical western environmentalists, particularly with the appearance of Earth First!

Perhaps some of the most influential writings to critique human arrogance and power have been under the banner of animal rights. In 1975, Peter Singer published Animal Liberation, which provided a utilitarian critique of speciesism. In 1983, Tom Regan published The Case for Animal Rights, which outlines a defense of the notion that nonhumans can and do have rights to be respected by humans.

Perhaps best viewed as a combination of the sentiments of deep ecology and the methods of Tom Regan’s Case for Animal Rights, Paul Taylor developed what he refers to “biocentric egalitarianism” in his 1986 book, Respect for Nature. In it, Taylor outlines a critique of human superiority and anthropocentrism and defends the equal inherent worth of all living things, from bacteria to buffalo.

Ecology and Global Sociopolitical Relationships

Throughout this full western and academic history of environmental thought there has also been a variety of critiques and analysis put forth by ecofeminists, indigenous writers, and voices from the global south. There is a long history of ecological consciousness outside of western academia or industrial society, yet it is too often unnoticed. Writers from Islamic, African, Buddist, Hindu, and Taoist backgrounds have long recognized humanity’s relationship to nature as fundamentally flawed.

Vandana Shiva

Philosopher, physicist, ecofeminist and activist Vandana Shiva has for years been involved in the discussion on global economic systems, food security, patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism and how they contribute to ecological crisis. For decades she has been recognized as an influential environmental activist with an analysis focused on third world development issues such as genetic engineering, women’s empowerment, and capitalist infrastructure.

Publications such as Carolyn Merchant’s, “The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution” in 1980, Carol Adams’s, “The Sexual Politics of Meat” in 1990 and Janet Biehl’s, “Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics” in 1991 helped to shape and redefine the new concept of ecofeminism. The concept had expanded to include radical analysis, mysticism, globalization, and animal rights.

Examples of writers from across the globe are plentiful. Mawil Y. Izzi Deen argues that the Koran has an encoded system of environmental ethics and that Islam seeks to regard nature as something beyond a source for exploitation. Segun Ogungbemi, a Nigerian philosopher, has written on the devastating effects technological development, poverty and ignorance have had on sub-Saharan Africa. Ramachandra Guha has critiqued western environmentalism, in particular deep ecology, for failing to address root causes of global environmental devastation such as consumption by the west and militarism.


(Ed Note: please visit the original site for larger photographs.)


In Kenya, Survey of Female Farmers Uncovers Challenges

In Kenya, Survey of Female Farmers Uncovers Challenges


Posted 09 September 2011, by Staff, The World Bank,


  • Rare survey seeks Kenyan women’s input and data to inform agricultural policy.
  • Female farmers have limited access to water, energy and finance; few women own property they can use as collateral for loans.
  • As agriculture becomes ‘feminized’ and men abandon farms to work in cities, policies must change to meet women’s needs, say experts.

September 9, 2011—Shelmith Wanjiru Kuria leans against the rustic wood fence bordering her farm in the Kenyan highlands, majestic Mount Kenya a picturesque backdrop. The area has some of Kenya’s most productive farmland, and some of its hardest working female farmers, says Shelmith, 34.

“Women are now dominating farming,” she says. She guesses 80% of farmers in her community are female. “Men here are supported by the women. The woman provides everything, even for the man. There’s nothing she can do about it.”

The widowed mother of two was one of many female farmers participating in a gender-disaggregated agricultural survey targeting 2,500 households and 5,000 individuals in eight regions of the Kenya.  The survey was conducted by Egerton University’s Tegemeo Institute between April and June 2011, and sponsored by the World Bank and the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture.

The resulting snapshot of farmers’ productivity and overall welfare is expected to influence agricultural, gender, and food security policy as Kenya moves to cope with drought and rising food prices that have driven millions of people to seek food assistance this year.

It will likely also confirm perceptions that more women than ever before are farming as men seek other jobs and migrate to cities and towns, says Beatrice Mwaura, gender officer in the Ministry of Agriculture.

“We need concrete data to inform issues of food security, marketing, access to services and resources,” says Mwaura.

“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy, and there is an awakening among leaders that gender issues could really matter after all. Anybody who doesn’t think it matters is being left behind.”

Most Interviews Are with Women

The survey was designed to capture input from both husband and wife in a household, to ensure it collected data from “people who really farm,” says World Bank Senior Gender Specialist Asa Britta Torkelsson.

“Conventional surveys usually target the head of the household and hence miss out on one side of the story,” says Torkelsson. That fact has contributed to under-reporting of women’s views and involvement in agriculture,  she says.

The survey also collected data on farmers’ access to water, energy and finance – three areas where women face extra burdens and challenges. Women are typically responsible for collecting water and fuel. In addition, few women own property they can use as collateral for loans, she adds.

While full results are not yet available, enumerators who conducted the survey in Central Province say most of their interviews were with women heading households abandoned by men.

Enumerators also note that most farmers have small farms and grow crops for their own consumption, commonly selling them only to raise money to pay a medical bill or other expense.

Even in agriculturally productive regions, farmers have problems getting their produce to relatively nearby markets, let alone to areas of the country with food shortages. Most don’t own a truck, car, or even a bicycle. Female farmers, by custom, mainly walk or use public transportation when available.

As a result, brokers and hawkers with trucks, motorcycles and bicycles commonly transport produce to market, reaping most of the trading benefits. But the brokers won’t travel dirt roads that are washed out by rain, and produce often rots in the fields, farmers say.

Costly Inputs, Slim Profit Margins

In addition, high fertilizer costs and low prices from brokers result in slim profit margins, they add.

Jane Wambul says yields on her 4-acre farm are decreasing because she can’t afford to buy the recommended amount of fertilizer. She says the price for fertilizer has risen from 300 shillings (about $3.25) for a 250 kg bag in 2005, to about 4,000 shillings (about $43) today. Government-subsidized fertilizer, at 2,500 ($26.90) a bag, is rarely available, she says.

Neighbor Veronica Wariumu, 62, supports eight people, including four grandchildren, on her 5-acre farm near Kirimangai, west of the Abedare mountain range. But the family is often short of food. There isn’t enough money to open a bank account. Though power lines pass over their house, they can’t afford to connect to the grid.

“Life is worsening as years go by, because inputs are costly and prices in shops are very high. On the other hand, prices for what we produce are very low,” says Veronica Warimu, 62.

Lure of the City

Veronica’s daughter, Josphine Musa, 27, a single mother of two young children, works with her mother on the farm but says she’d rather be in business – any business—than farming.

“Men get most of the opportunities,” says Josphine, who completed three years of secondary school. “There is a bias toward men when it comes to a job.”

Farming has lost its luster for increasing numbers of young men, who have left for the cities while  women “eke out a living” in rural areas, says Professor Wangari Mwai, who speaks frequently on gender issues.  Just as agriculture has become feminized, policies and assistance must change to meet the needs of women, she says.

“When you target food security issues, you actually target women,” she says. “As a single woman with only one cow, you may not be able to be very productive. But if water points are provided and women are empowered to farm, I believe we can make a great difference in the lives of rural women.”

World Bank Senior Agriculture Economist Andrew Karanja says the survey will help the Kenya Agricultural Productivity and Agribusiness Project better serve women. The survey’s findings will have implications for technology development. Agricultural extension services, too, might change substantially, he says.

“We need to find ways to make it attractive to women, and available at suitable times for women, because they have other issues to deal with.”

Permanent URL for this page: