Women Feeding the World: Planet Forward Salon Searches for Solutions

Women Feeding the World: Planet Forward Salon Searches for Solutions

On Wednesday morning a diverse group of experts, decision makers, and students came together for the Planet Forward salon, “Women and Girls: Nourishing the Planet in the Face of Climate Change.”  The two-hour conversation touched on a multitude of issues facing the planet and the women, particularly in developing countries, who are working to feed the world as the population grows and the climate changes. The Salon opened with presentations by Molly Brown, a research scientist at NASA, and Tjada McKenna, the Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future. The opening remarks oriented the discussion to tell compelling stories about women around the world backed by facts. One of the major takeaways from the Salon was not only about how to address the challenges faced women in agriculture but also about how to share their stories with a wider audience.

The Salon made it clear that women are more affected by climate change in developing countries than men, and that women are also the solution to addressing serious issues such as nutritional deficiencies, food insecurity, hunger, and poverty. Tjada McKenna emphasized that women’s empowerment is at the nexus of agriculture and nutrition: “Women are the solution. If you start to address the inequities, you change the landscape.” She also pointed out that women own less land, have limited ability to hire labor, and have impeded access to credit extension. McKenna and Jones established that investing in women and closing the gender gap in agriculture will lead to women reinvesting in their families, ultimately addressing food insecurity and the nutrition outcomes of people living in impoverished, rural areas around the world.

Addressing the inequities faced by women in agriculture brought up a discussion of technology, and how to use technology to empower women and improve crop yields. Fertilizer use, pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and methane digesters all entered the conversation, leading student Hayley Burns to ask, “Is innovation and technology actually harming us as well?” Robin Lerner, of the U.S. State Department, added to the discussion of innovation and technology with a critical question: “Who gets to receive innovative ideas, information, and resources?”

The many controversies surrounding sustainable agriculture and development, and the range of issues, from domestic violence to environmental and health effects of pesticide use, leaves many questions to be answered. The Salon began a conversation to address these issues and provided a starting point to find and implement solutions.

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