Last night I attended an event by the Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA), an organization promoting women’s rights around the world. This particular event was focused on the work they do in India, on women, food, and climate change. In a country with 70 percent of the population engaged in agriculture, and where Indian women grow half of the food crop, an initiative linking these issues is very much needed.
WEA’s India program includes empowering women through innovative and sustainable agricultural practices — seed banks, farmer-to-farmer exchanges, promoting ecological restoration, and the sharing of best practices.
It is imperative to improve food and economic security, as a changing climate can cause one part of a state to suffer from drought and the other side floods, as happened this year in Uttar Pradesh. I mentioned in my previous post of meeting women in Gujarat who had to cope with erratic weather patterns, rising temperatures and inadequate rainfall impacting their harvest. These women were supporting one another and finding ways to cope with chaos. They are doing this by building on traditional knowledge, making use of ecologically-sound agricultural practices and supporting women’s leadership across Indian communities.
Joanna Macy, a respected author and “eco-philosopher,” shared some thoughts at the end of the evening. Over the years she has spent time in India, starting with a stint in the Peace Corps. She was there at the start of the Green Revolution, which hasn’t lived up to its expectations, serving corporations better than the poor it was intended to help. Macy sees food as the real revolution that will unite us all, on a local rather than industrial scale. I think she is right. Perhaps it is because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I see more and more people supporting local, community-based agriculture. But what better and more satisfying way of bringing people together than a good meal grown in your own garden or a nearby sustainable farm?
The quote of the night also came from Macy, who asked “Where would our planet be without India?” Today we can take hope in the women there who are creating and remembering traditional solutions to improve the planet.