This is overall a very good draft that tries to highlight the linkages between sustainable production and consumption, pointing to a range of entry-points for achieving sustainable food systems. Congratulations to the team.
While trade-offs are briefly mentioned, my main concern is the lack of adequate acknowledgement of power relations and hierarchies embedded within all stages of the process, that is, the distributional issue. We know that there is a huge gap between the rich and poor in terms of food consumption and dietary diversity, with indigenous people in India confronting a decline in dietary diversity over the past three decades, due to larger changes in land use patterns and the conflicts between macro-economic policies that encourage GDP growth through ‘industrial and infrastructure development’ often at the cost of biodiversity and local livelihoods. Divisions based on social identity – class, caste and ethnicity – need to be acknowledged, so the challenge of rising global income inequalities can be addressed.
We also know that there are power inequalities by gender which both shape divisions of labour and consumption patterns. Women in many contexts may be inclined to cultivate a diverse set of crops for food security, however, they may be excluded from decisions on land use, and lack control over inputs and resources. Greater attention needs therefore to be placed on social and gender power dynamics at each stage of the SFS, and the resource entitlements of women and men across diverse communities, in order to identify and address possible constraints.
A second element relates to shifts in diets to ultra-processed foods, contributing in turn to the double burden of malnutrition. There are many reasons for this, which are often not well understood. First, at a policy level, taxation policies need to restrict the sale and use of such foods, promoted often with several subsidies and incentives by the producing firms. On the other extreme, at the micro-level we need to better understand local livelihood patterns and the gender divisions of labour that may be encouraging the consumption of ultra-processed fast foods. In the hills of Uttarakhand in India for instance, where a majority of men migrate to the plains in search of employment, the entire burden of production and reproduction falls on women. Firewood for fuel is often not easily available and requires long treks. As a result, food that needs little fuel for preparation is potentially preferred. It is also easier for children to consume fast foods, when their mothers are absent from the home.
Third, several countries in the world today are facing growing youth employment, contributing to a competition for scarce resources for ensuring survival. I would like to draw attention to the marine fisheries sector in India. This continues to be dominated by small-scale fishers, however, over the past decade or so, there has been a push towards rapid capitalisation to enable boats to fish further from home. The size of catch has been declining, though with rising prices, earnings have remained stable. Sustainability however is in question on many fronts – ecological, economic and social. Overfishing has contributed to resource depletion, alongside rising pollution and other problems in the coastal environment. Economically, large export companies have replaced small-scale fish vendors, mainly women, depriving the latter of their livelihoods, as they can no longer access fish catch for local sales. Also, more young men are migrating to other countries to raise the capital for investment in larger boats and more technologically advanced gear (albeit often destructive). Socially, and in terms of diets, not just are women losing their source of income, but also access to fish for home consumption. Shifts in diets dependent largely on carbohydrates (rice), rather than including protein (fish) is enhancing problems of obesity, especially amongst women.
While I really appreciate the link being made between nutrition and health, social protection and agricultural production policies, bringing in social differences and power relations, based on gender and class in particular, will help move towards sustainable solutions.
Within the gender research conducted through LANSA in India, we have examined the impact of agriculture and the environment on food and nutrition security. In Koraput, Odisha, we found that women control the choice of crops and the output, critical for household nutrition, in the uplands. They grow millets, horsegram, niger and vegetables on these plots(Rao, 2017 http://lansasouthasia.org/content/gendered-time-seasonality-and-nutrition-insights-two-indian-districts). These contribute to the diversity of diets at home, but women also sell small quantities in the local markets, whenever they need cash for expenses.
Yet today corporate interventions, especially the rapid spread of eucalyptus plantations for the paper industry, across this region, is displacing women farmers from their upland plots. A Paroja woman in Koraput noted, “I used to grow mandya in two plots for our daily consumption. Someone from the company spoke to my husband and convinced him of the profitability of planting eucalyptus. He agreed, and now I have only one plot left. Only if there is food from our land, is there happiness”. The option of course is to purchase millets from the market, but this is hardly available and prices are unaffordable.
While denying the jointness of both production and reproduction in tribal areas, these interventions are gradually making male control of land, income and indeed women the norm, with negative consequences for nutrition. Baseline nutritional data from LANSA research in Koraput indicates that over 50% of both under-5 and adult population are underweight, especially amongst the STs and SCs. The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (2009), noting a marginal decline in Chronic Energy Deficiency amongst STs between 1985-2008, alongside a secular decline in the consumption of roots and tubers, as well as other vegetables, confirms this finding.
This is really an important issue and I congratulate FAO for making it the theme for the next SOFA. I have a few specific comments. In section 3.3, drivers of migration, apart from poverty, employment opportunities etc, a major reason is the changes in land use patterns due to global and national business investments in agricultural land. Within academic debates, this has been called 'land grabs', 'green grabs' amongst others. Seccondly, in section 4.2, on migration impacts, while nutrition is important, the entire field of health, nutrition and wellbeing, of both migrants and those left-behind needs to be emphasised. In fact, for Scheduled Tribes in India, over a period of two decades, men (seasonal migrants) show a declining diet diversity, with implications for nutrition. In parts of western India, during peak agricultural seasons, often coinciding with male migration, women lack the time to cook and feed, themselves or their children. These insights on nutrition are emerging from research we have conducted as part of the consortium Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA). Third, an important use of remittances is for consumption and class mobility, apart from survival, and not necessarily for investing in agricultural productivity (section 4.3). I have case studies of this from Eastern and Northern India as well as Bangladesh, which I am happy to provide. Finally, and somewhat contradictory to the previous point, we find that certain sectors such as fisheries in India are being rapidly capitalised in a context of climate change and resource depletion (section 5.1). In order to survive in such a capitalised sector, migration becomes the only way of raising the required capital. Fisheries in particular requires substantial investments, and this scale of lending is not provided by the public sector banks. Private capital would be too expensive to make the venture viable. We have generated evidence from research based on a grant from the Norwegian Research Council, which we would be happy to share.
For gender transformative impacts, your first question already gives a clue, and that is, to understand the differences amongst rural women, in terms of needs and priorities, but also their coping strategies. We dont give adequate attention to the ways in which women are already using the resources they have to survive. Sometimes this involves risky strategies, including engaging in non-legal activities or transactional sex. Once we are able to map out women's gendered vulnerabilities, especially in a context of climate change and growing male migration, we then need to ensure that policies and strategies support or enhance their strategies, provide them information that can ensure safety, for instance.
In much of Africa, an analysis of data reveals an increase in the number of female-headed households. What this indicates is that often women are opting out of marriage, but making economic and emotional partnerships that ensure some support and reciprocity. This has implications for resource access, but equally health and fertility. Gender transformative impacts may then emerge from different starting points, but the bottomline is that the processes of engagement need to address unequal power relations, be it of class, ethnicity/caste or gender.
This is an important discussion in preparation for the CSW in March 2018. On behalf of LANSA (Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia), we had organised an FSN Forum last year (130) on Transforming gender relations in agriculture through women’s empowerment: benefits, challenges and trade-offs for improving nutrition outcomes. We had a very interesting discussion around similar issues and I will not repeat the points that emerged, but do look at the summary report attached.
While the feminisation of agriculture and agricultural labour is recognised in many countries of the world, women are still not adequately supported to perform these roles, their needs and interests not given priority attention within agricultural policies, research and extension services. Recognition of women's economic contributions to agriculture and provision of equal entitlements are central to protecting their rights and helping them overcome disadvantage. Explicit legal recognition as farmers with equal entitlements as men is a precondition to removing inequalities in access to resources and services.
An important issue that has emerged in our research is women's time burdens, especially during peak agricultural seasons, when they end up working close to 14 hours a day, in agriculture and domestic work. As agricultural work needs to be done, given the seasonal nature of work cycles, women's care-work is squeezed, with negative implications for their own health and that of their children. We find a particular trade off between agricultural work and care of the young child, contributing to the persistence of nutritional deprivation intergenerationally.
Apart from ensuring equal productive entitlements, it is therefore also necessary to support women's reproductive and care work. This can be done through public investments to reduce rural women's drudgery by provision of basic infrastructure as well as time and drudgery reducing technologies. Social protection programmes need to pay attention to increasing women's choices, especially with respect to the season work-care time trade-offs. Further, alongside encouraging men to share care responsibilities, states also need to ensure the provision of reliable and good quality facilities for child care and feeding, especially during the peak agricultural seasons. This is because amongst the poorest, men often end up migrating to towns to earn a living, and given their absence from rural areas, cannot share women's work burdens.
Thanks for sharing HKI's strategy of addressing malnutrition in Bangladesh. Nurturing Connections seems to be working well as it appears to address gender norms in a sensitive rather than confrontational way; at the same time aware of not overburdening women. This often seems to be the trade-off in attempts to empower women that we end up adding to their burdens.
Livestock and fisheries are clearly important sectors for women's engagement and income, but often marginalised in agricultural policies that focus primarily on cultivated crops. From a nutritional dimension, these are important sources of protein. It is quite shocking to hear about the poor nutrition amongst fishing communities in Pakistan, as one would assume that fish is a part of their diet. Thank you for raising these issues, as when talking of agriculture, and women's and men's roles within it, we need to keep in mind that this term includes livestock, fisheries and even forestry/agro-forestry.
There are several very interesting dimensions emerging from this discussion. Haris has picked up the issue of women's work, gender divisions of labour, and its links to both technology and wage markets. This is probably an area that needs more systematic research to understand its impacts on nutrition, as much research in south Asia points to the differential impacts of wages in terms of empowerment, linked partly to the motivation for work - whether it is out of necessity or choice - and the type of work. When new technologies are introduced, why do particular tasks/activities often shift to men, and consequently their value too rises? Can the better designed cotton bag described by Mahesh lead to significant improvements in women's health, but will it also lead to sharing of the cotton picking task by men?
Thanks Mahtab for raising the issue of nutrition awareness and education. This is crucial, however, rather than using a standardised approach, there is need to contextualise it in line with local food cultures and availability. The differential food preferences emerge also from some of the other contributions, especially from Africa. While several NGOs in India have been successful in working with groups of women to deveop nutrition-sensitve agriculture as well as awareness strategies, could these potentially be upscaled? The issue of sensitisation for men, raised by Barnali and Bhavani, is important, as despite women's work and incomes, sometimes it is the men who go to the markets and make the household purchases. Final decisions on what is consumed then often lies with the men.
It is very good to hear about the food safety act of Bangladesh. I think this is an important dimension, as despite all efforts, lack of adequate safety measures in both production and food processing/handling, can have adverse consequences for health and nutrition.
I would like to hear a little more about the seasonality dimension. Recent Lansa research in India seems to indicate that there are seasonal changes in food availability and consumption, leading to temporary energy stresses. whether these have any longer term outcomes is however not clear.
Poultry has the potential for both enhancing women's incomes and improving nutritional outcomes. Thank you very much for the information around poultry, especially the Women's Poultry Associations, in Afghanistan. The Associations have an added advantage potentially of giving both visibility and legitimacy to women's income contributions. How far they retain control over these incomes needs however to be examined.
It is true that in poor, rural households, whole families are nutritionally disadvantaged and not just women. The objective therefore is indeed to improve the wellbeing of the entire household and not just women within it. How can this be done? I think several strategies have been suggested in the discussions on this forum so far. An important one is to recognise and acknowledge women's contributions to agriculture and the generation of household incomes. Such recognition could be used to strengthen their legal entitlements to inputs and services, and also enhance their agency and say in household decision-making. Second, in most of South Asia, culturally and socially women are responsible for domestic and care work, including cooking and feeding the family. A second strategy is therefore to ensure that they have sufficient time for these tasks, without stretching their working day too much. This could involve the provision of fuel and energy, drudgery-reduction technologies, access to clean drinking water, sanitation and health services etc. It could also involve a more equitable sharing of tasks between men and women in households. Thirdly, we need to make sure that women too receive fair returns for their work contributions. Gender wage gaps in agriculture often disadvantage women workers, and this needs to be corrected.
Thanks Ramani for raising the very important point around seasonal variations. In some senses, given the seasonality of agriculture, this should be obvious, but it is quite often overlooked. In some new LANSA research in India we are finding similar results. During peak agricultural seasons, the time available for cooking and caring declines substantially, creating energy deficits in both adults and children. Thanks for the reference to your paper.
Look forward to the report Mar and to learn from the successful examples you mention. Recognising and addressing unpaid care work is clearly central to addressing the issue of malnutrition in South Asia, as despite new technologies as well as a host of nutrition interventions including take home rations, unless women have the time to cook and regularly feed the young child, the problem is unlikely to disappear. We often tend to look for technical solutions, rather than addressing the social issues including norms that tend to reproduce existing inequalities.