Gender May Come as Surprise Food Security Factor: Lutheran Aid Worker

(Photo Credit: United Nations)Women farmers in India are seen in an undated file photo.

Some may be surprised that among factors that contribute to food security for people around the world is gender, according to a Lutheran aid organization worker.

Nicole Hark, LWR's Program Associate for Asia & the Middle East noted in the organization's blog on Thursday that the lack of food security affects – and is affected by – gender dynamics in the community among many of the households the organization works with in India.

"With food security comes greater health, independence and economic well-being," she writes. "Of the many factors that contribute to food security, there is one that we have been looking at recently that may come as a surprise: gender."

She reports that men seasonally migrate to look for employment to increase cash flow.

"This leaves women to take care of the farm, along with their other household duties," she writes. "Both men and women feel the weight of the added responsibility. In our work with many of these community members, this issue arises again and again."

Hark says LWR is partnering with the Foods Resource Bank to run pilot projects in three countries as part of the "Learning for Gender Integration" initiative, to see how men and women's experiences differ in a situation or activity and the respond to gaps by providing opportunities to benefit from that activity.

"We don't want to marginalize men in the process of empowering women, for example," she writes. "Sometimes not every constraint can be addressed in every project-some may be cultural or deeply rooted in traditional gender roles and take more time (and community action) to address."

Hark says her organization tries to primarily increase crop yields through the introduction of new agricultural techniques but says that as a result of gender dynamic, it is introducing other crops, such as vegetables or lentils, which can be sold at local markets.

"This will allow men to stay home instead of migrating, which means they can support the farm work, while easing the burden of women," Hark says.

She adds that taking into account those differences, LWR and its partners "can create stronger projects that take into consideration gender-based constraints and community needs."

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