More than 80,000 poor women farmers from around the world have protested as part of ActionAid's HungerFREE campaign, demanding the right to land to help end hunger.
"There is no quick fix to ending hunger, but there is a long-term solution. Women's access and control over land is the answer," said Everjoice Win, ActionAid's Head of Women's Rights on the eve of International Women's Day. "In poor countries, it is women who grow most of the food but rights to help them are not guaranteed.
"We need to invest in women farmers as they are the ones putting food on the table. Governments need to support them by promoting and protecting their rights to access and control land. They need to help them farm with improved irrigation, equipment and seeds. This will help reduce hunger and make families and countries more food secure."
Women produce 60-80 per cent of the food in developing countries but own only one per cent of the land . Without secure tenure it is difficult for women to borrow small amounts of money to buy seeds and other essential inputs. Women are often excluded from training and farmer's cooperatives. Lack of knowledge about their rights makes them vulnerable to land grabbing and disinheritance.
In The Gambia, for instance, farming is often the only means of survival but most women taking part in ActionAid's HungerFREE campaign said that they owned no land and felt they were being exploited by landowners.
"Women are disillusioned," said Aja Isatou Fayinkeh, mother of seven in Basse, Upper River Region. "We are like foreigners in our own country. We barely own any land. We borrow land and after it has been given to us, we work on it, and then the owners come and take it back when they feel like it. This is very disheartening because farming is not easy. It takes lots of sacrifice."
The food crisis means there is now an urgent need for structural solutions to end hunger. Over the last two years, the average price of food in developing countries has risen by 80 per cent, according to the World Bank.
The price of wheat has increased by 107 per cent, rice by 38 per cent and maize by 76 per cent. The number of people living in hunger is now almost one billion, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation's latest edition of its global hunger report.
ActionAid's HungerFREE campaign, mobilising women farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America, is helping to bring real and lasting solutions to end hunger.
As a result of the campaign, 120 women in the Dalit community have been granted title deeds to one acre of agricultural land in the Cuddapah district of Andhra Pradesh, India.
In Nepal, there is a commitment from key politicians to enshrine women's land rights in the new constitution.
In Gambia, 3,000 women have received land. Local chiefs and district governors have made concrete commitments to women on land.
In Northern Malawi, 300 women have successfully managed to convince traditional leaders to allocate them land.
"We want rural women to have much more visibility and to be heard when they speak out," said Graça Machel, while marching with Mozambican women in Maputo last year.
Machel is an avid supporter of women's development. "We want them to have a voice, particularly in decision making because they are usually left out. These women are leaders with extraordinary qualities. We can't let this desperation keep them down."
HungerFREE Women Speak Out - a photo exhibition capturing the stories of women taking part in ActionAid's campaign is being launched in ten countries to mark International Women's Day. It will travel globally to raise awareness and support for women's land rights.
Note to Editors:
The following countries launched HungerFREE Women campaigns from October - December 2008: Uganda, Mozambique, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, India, Nicaragua, Peru and Guatemala.
FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES
Contact: In London, Sarah Gillam tel. +44 773 888 4014
In Johannesburg, Irene Ndiritu tel. +27 84 542 8441
Content available for use:
Photographs and case studies of women taking action from 10 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. See: http://www.actionaid.org.uk/media/pictures/
See video of women's stories and campaign mobilisations on www.hungerfreeplanet.org
For VNR and rush tapes, contact Peter Murphy, International Video Producer at +44 20 7561 7534 or Peter.Murphy@actionaid.org
For policy information see:
Further information about the ActionAid HungerFREE campaign and HungerFREE Women Speak Out photo exhibition at: www.actionaid.org/hungerfree