SWISSAID welcomes the progress of the discussions in this area thanks to the Summit and the emphasis on agro-ecology, but regrets that the central actors of this system, i.e. the farmers, have been largely excluded from the discussions. Approaches such as agroecology, which builds on the way of life of 500 million smallholder farmers who provide much of the world’s food, are still too hesitantly embraced and implemented by the international community. Thus, SWISSAID has given a voice to farmers in its report, and through them to agroecology.

The report with the stories of the six women farmers is addressed to the UN Secretary General and was handed over by SWISSAID to the head of the Swiss delegation Christian Hofer on 21st September. The report describes each the situation of each woman as a farmer. But most importantly, the women farmers interviewed make suggestions for improvements to food systems. These include the promotion of agroecology. After all, agroecological food systems strengthen women’s independence and autonomy from expensive means of production and uncertain international price developments. In light of these findings, SWISSAID wants to give women farmers a voice. We want them to finally be heard by international decision-makers, who need to acknowledge that these women are professionals who know well what they need, to be able to scale sustainable, ecological food systems in their communities and beyond.

A voice given to farmers

The women farmers are called Aïssa, Anne, Amina, Rut, Chathurika and Kathrin. They live in Niger, Switzerland, Tanzania, Guatemala and Sri Lanka. They all work in their own fields. Some of them have inherited the land from their ancestors, others have changed careers to become farmers. They are eager to learn how to cultivate and maintain the fields. This way, they feed their families and communities in a healthy way and contribute significantly to the household income. Women farmers play a central role in the production of food. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, they produce up to 80 percent of the food consumed in rural areas, producing local varieties such as vegetables, fruits, rice, wheat and maize.

Rut, peasant farmer from Guatemala

María Rosaura, peasant farmer from Colombia

Numerous obstacles

Women farmers and their work are largely absent when food systems are discussed on 23rd and 24th September. Yet they face numerous challenges: lack of recognition, lack of social protection, insufficient education, lack of or difficult access to land ownership, violence and isolation. They are committed to their community and at the same time are the most affected by malnutrition. Almost 60 percent of the people who suffer chronically from hunger are women, including women in rural areas.

Amina, peasant farmer from Tanzania

Anne, peasant farmer from Switzerland

Agroecology now!

Agroecology is an approach that promotes farmers’ autonomy by focusing on sustainable agricultural practices without pesticides and synthetic fertilisers. Natural resources are thus conserved for future production, numerous healthy foods are grown simultaneously (high agrobiodiversity) and the free use of traditional seeds is promoted. In this way, farmers do not have to become dependent on private suppliers. Agroecological farming methods always pursue ecological, socio-cultural, economic and political goals. They have proven their worth in the face of the crises of climate change, the drastic loss of biodiversity and poverty. SWISSAID has experienced this time and time again on the fields and repeated it to the Federal Council on the eve of the pre-summit in Rome in July.

Agroecology is the key to the necessary transformation of global food systems and must be better supported and expanded. Do not listen to the voices of agribusiness, but to the voices of those who actually feed the world in a healthy way – the smallholder farmers and family farms. To learn more about the opportunities of agroecology, watch our latest webinar on this topic.