As delegates meet in Stockholm for World Water Week (1-6 September), Chelsea Thompson, 21 from Solihull, and Barbara Eze, 23 from Hackney, urged senior politicians at the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) in London to put their money where their hearts are and invest in small-scale agriculture.
On Wednesday 4 September 2013, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Lynne Featherstone received a petition from 4,521 Progressio supporters asking senior politicians to ‘fall in love with farmers’. She was presented with a giant photo-petition.
Chelsea Thompson told the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State about her experiences volunteering in El Salvador on an International Citizen Service placement with Progressio:
“We worked with a small community of 110 families and there was just one water source for all of them. Their main income was agriculture, but didn’t have steady access to water.”
Minister Lynne Featherstone replied: “I think that’s one of the things that is always so shocking, how much of a woman’s day is spent just on that really basic thing [collecting water]. And of course without access to water then your ability for economic empowerment is extremely limited.”
In response to the petition, which calls on politicians to invest a portion of the 0.7% aid spend in solutions that ensure sustainable access to water for small-scale farmers such as irrigation and water storage and capture schemes, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State remarked "issue well-raised" and commented:
“We absolutely agree; small holder farmers are the absolute answer. Particularly in the work DfID does, we put a lot of our efforts into supporting agriculture.”
Small-scale farming feeds a third of the world’s population. Without this invaluable contribution many more people in developing countries would go hungry, but because small-scale agriculture is often rain-fed it is vulnerable to climate change and farmers need support to adapt.
Progressio’s Environment Policy Officer, Lis Wallace, said: “Water is absolutely essential for growing food. Without this vital ingredient a vision for the eradication of poverty and hunger can never be achieved. That’s why we are focusing on making sure farmers have reliable access to water sources, not only to feed their families but also to support their livelihoods.”
Progressio believes that this investment should be targeted mainly at women, who make up 70% of small-scale farmers in the developing world.
There are 870 million people in the world who do not have enough food to eat. Research suggests bolstering the knowledge, access and resources of women farmers could reduce that number by 150 million.
Mimose, who is pictured with her son in a photo exhibition created in support of the campaign, explains the daily challenges of accessing water in Haiti. She speaks for women and small-scale farmers all over the world when she says: “Water is life. And without it we cannot grow anything.”
Progressio's 'Fall in Love with Farmers' campaign aims to convince politicians to invest in agriculture in developing countries in order to meet the Millenium Development Goal to eradicate hunger and poverty.