Too many women, men, and children are needlessly suffering from chronic hunger around the world. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization says the number is as high as 840 million — nearly three times the entire population of the United States.
No human being deserves to feel the pain that comes from having eaten only a couple bites of flour mixed with water, or the uncertainty of whether they will eat tomorrow. We can continue to talk about why the problem exists, and when to fix it, or we can do something.
In the U.S., we’re likely to imagine a man operating large machinery when we think about farming. But around the globe, the typical farmer is a woman — usually working with basic tools on a plot a little bigger than a three-car garage. Women produce up to 80 percent of food in developing countries, but when food crises strike, women often eat last and least.
Most women farmers lack the market access and the resources necessary to increase their crop productivity and income. We have each had the opportunity to travel to countries around the globe like Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Honduras and South Sudan; what women farmers in these countries have told us is that they are looking for a hand up — not a hand out.
The Global Food Security Act of 2013 (H.R. 2822) directs U.S. foreign assistance to provide that type of sustainable assistance and requires the president to develop a long-term strategy to improve global nutrition, food security, and agricultural development. It’s a solution not just for today but for tomorrow and future generations.
Current foreign assistance programs make a difference, but improved assistance to women smallholder farmers is critical for tackling world hunger. Farmers need help with securing seeds and fertilizer, and accessing trainings, credit, and markets. Improving resource availability to women farmers would increase their ability to produce and sell more crops at local markets.
In fact, equipping women farmers with equal resources has the potential to feed as many as 150 million more people each year. That’s a tremendous opportunity to improve the health and well-being of millions of individuals, while investing in future markets and promoting global stability.
This bipartisan bill currently has 25 co-sponsors and is supported by more than 36 non-governmental organizations and faith-based groups.
The Global Food Security Act promotes sustainable, lasting solutions to hunger and poverty. And it does so by targeting our efforts to where they will have the biggest impact: empowering women and local communities.
Hunger is a solvable problem. The U.S. has a unique opportunity to partner with women around the world to create long-term food security for all. We must seize this opportunity to invest in women, improve the health of millions of people, and promote stability and security around the world.
Rep. Betty McCollum is a Democrat, serving her seventh term representing Minnesota’s 4th District. She is the author of the Global Food Security Act. Ritu Sharma is the co-founder and president of Women Thrive Worldwide, the leading nonprofit organization that brings the voices of women around the world to decision makers in Washington, D.C. She is also author of the forthcoming book, “Teach a Woman to Fish.”