Moderated by Nick Kristof
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States; Nick Kristof, moderator and columnist for The New York Times; Reema Nanavaty, director for economic and rural development for the Self-Employed Women’s Association; Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever; His Excellency, President Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania; Kathy Spahn, president and CEO, Helen Keller International; Dr. Jose Graziano Da Silva, assistant director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. (Applause.)
: Well, thank you very much and welcome to all. You will have the opportunity in just a few minutes to hear from all of our distinguished panelists. In addition to those who have been introduced, I want to recognize the UN Food and Agriculture Organization director general, Mr. Jacques Diouf. Thank you, sir, for being here. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize a longtime friend and leader in efforts against poverty and on behalf of human dignity, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. (Applause.)
And on a personal note, I am pleased that I will be joined shortly in this program by USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah and I’m also pleased that one of our two congressional representatives, Representative Russ Carnahan from Missouri, is here. So welcome to one and all.
And it’s a great pleasure for me for the third year in a row to meet during the United Nations General Assembly to focus on an issue that is critical to the global economy, global health, and the prosperity and well-being of billions of people worldwide: agriculture and food security.
I don’t need to tell this audience that while we meet here in this beautiful hotel, nearly 1 billion people are suffering from chronic hunger, and in the Horn of Africa we are seeing the devastating impact of acute hunger and starvation.
Now, at the root of the crisis in the Horn of Africa is a man-made problem. And we are all working together to try to alleviate the suffering and to save lives, and we’re also as an international community sending a very strong plea to the group al-Shabaab, which is continuing to prevent humanitarian organizations from getting aid to the people who need it, primarily women and children. As a result, the United Nations warns that up to 750,000 people living in famine-stricken areas of Somalia could die in the next 120 days.
Now, all of us – my country, the international community – are supporting organizations that are saving lives, and we’re going to continue to do our part and we are going to redouble our efforts to press al-Shabaab to let us help.
Later today, USAID Administrator Raj Shah will outline ways that the international community and people all over the world can get involved in supporting those who are suffering in the Horn of Africa.
As we respond to this and other immediate crises, it is imperative that we stay focused on the long-term goal of strengthening global agriculture in order to produce more food, more nutritious food, and reduce hunger. The United Nations estimates that we need to increase global food production by 70 percent by the year 2050 in order to meet growing demand. That is a very serious challenge.
So what are we going to do to meet it? Well, one way that we know would yield significant results is investing more in women. This comes down to a simple matter of numbers. Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in many developing countries. They’re involved in every aspect of agricultural production, from planting seeds to weeding fields to harvesting crops. Yet women farmers are 30 percent less productive than male farmers, for one reason: they have access to fewer resources. They certainly work as hard and they, like farmers everywhere, are at the mercy of nature. But these women have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, less access to training and the ownership of land.
As a result, they grow fewer crops, which means less food is available at markets, more people go hungry, farmers earn less money, and we’re back in to that vicious cycle. The production gap between men and women farmers disappears when that resource gap is closed. If all farmers, men and women, had access to the same resources, we could increase agricultural output by 20 to 30 percent. That would feed an additional 150 million people every year.
And the incomes of women farmers would increase, which means more financial security for their families and more money circulating in local economies, which in turn will help other businesses grow. Furthermore, because women tend to devote more of their money to the health, education, and nutrition of their children, a rise in their incomes pays off over generations.
In the report provided to you today, you will find several examples of the progress that can be achieved by supporting women farmers. In Ghana, for example, if women and men held equal land rights, and if they both had the ability to use land as collateral to make major investments like irrigation systems or draft animals, women farmers would double their profits from farming. Multiple studies in places from Honduras to Nepal, from the Philippines to Rwanda, South Africa and Zambia, find that when women are involved in the design and field testing of new technologies, those technologies are actually adopted more rapidly, which increases productivity and incomes faster.
It is for reasons like these that the United States has focused on women farmers and our Feed the Future Food Security Initiative, which is a centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy in the Obama Administration. We have worked closely with our partners, including other nations, NGOs, private sector companies, and of course the multilaterals, to help make reaching women farmers a top priority for everyone working on this issue.
Today, I’m pleased to announce that the United States is allocating $5 million this year for a new gender program within Feed the Future. This money will be used to fund innovative approaches to promoting gender equality in agriculture and land use and to integrate gender effectively into agricultural development and food security programs. It will be used to expand our knowledge base. We know that women farmers represent a major untapped resource, but we don’t know nearly enough about which approaches will change that. So we need concentrated research about the obstacles facing women farmers worldwide so we know how to remove them, so women can contribute even more.
I would urge everyone here today and everyone working in this critical field around the world to bring us your best research proposals and programs to support women farmers. We are looking for good ideas to support.
Conversations like the one we will have here today make me hopeful that we will succeed. We have with us a distinguished panel of experts who will help us better understand the policies, programs, laws, and societal changes we must make in order to unleash the full productive capacity of women farmers.
I’m very pleased to welcome Nick Kristof as our moderator. As many of you know, he and his wife, the journalist Sheryl WuDunn, have written a book Half the Sky about the role of women in society. And they write, “Women and girls aren’t the problem. They’re the solution, along with men.” As we will discuss today, and as the short film we are about to watch on the role of women in agriculture will underscore, that’s a reality that we need to embrace worldwide.
As I said last week at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, I believe we are entering the participation age, with political transitions opening opportunities for people to shape their own destinies, and economic transformations creating new platforms for broad-based growth. Every individual, men and women, boys and girls, everyone is poised to be a contributing and valued member of their societies. When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and the world.
So let us now turn our attention to the film – I think that’s the next item on the agenda – and then following the film, our moderator, Nick Kristof, will come to the podium or maybe sit here.
I think I’ll – I’m lazy, I’ll sit here.
Okay. (Laughter.) He’ll just sit here to moderate our discussion. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
(The film is shown.)
Thank you all very much for coming. If you’re from out of town, then welcome to New York. We have a terrific panel, and I’m going to start by asking each of the panel members a question or two, then we’ll move onto a bit of a conversation here and then open it up to questions as well. Secretary Clinton has to leave at 2 o’clock, and at that point, she will be succeeded by Raj Shah right here very seamlessly. And it truly is sort of extraordinary for a Secretary of State to be hosting an event focusing not only on agriculture and food, but on a gender focus to improve that. This is really something very new it seems to me.
And so, Secretary Clinton, maybe let me start with you, and you’ve made the economic case for investing in women to improve agriculture. You also just gave an important speech a couple days ago for APEC on the same thing, but there’s still this gulf between this research, the evidence that you cited, the economic case, and the actual investments that happen and what actually happens on farms around the world. So – and also I think that there’s – everybody in the room probably frankly agrees with you, but there are an awful lot of skeptics out there who think this is just kind of the latest politically correct fad. So how do we go from bridging that evidence, that economic case into actually having an impact on the ground?
Well, Nick, I think that’s the stage we’re at, and I’m very pleased we are at that stage because up until now, many of us have been making the case. We’ve made it on moral grounds, on cultural grounds, on social and political grounds, and we’ve seen progress, but I think making the case on economic grounds is what finally begins to open minds and change policies. It is clear to us who are in this room – this is like preaching to the choir because I look out and I see so many leaders from around the world who have been working on agricultural and food issues, on gender issues, on poverty issues – it’s clear to us that the case now can be made. We didn’t even collect data for decades. We had no way of knowing what additional inputs provided to women farmers in Tanzania or Brazil or Bangladesh or anywhere else would actually mean. And therefore, it was a harder case for us to make.
But since we’ve been gathering such data – and I thank FAO and other organizations that have been leaders in doing this – we can now put this movie together and talk about what happens when you have a leader like President Kikwete, who focuses on agriculture, creates corridors for agricultural productivity, and further focuses on making women more productive. It works. So you’ll hear from the champion architect of the Zero Hunger Program in Brazil. It works. So now when we go to heads of state or parliaments or international bodies and we make the case, it’s no longer that we’re making a case rooted in our sense of equality and justice and morality; we’re making an economic case that it’s going to raise incomes, it’s going to increase productivity, and given the economy in the world and given the severe challenges our food systems face, this is now an argument that can no longer be ignored.
You alluded to this a moment ago when you mentioned the $5 million for research, but can you just speak briefly about what the government, what the Administration is planning to do to build that economic case and to make it at home and around the world?
I can. Let me give you a few examples. Let me start with land reform, which is one of the most challenging issues that demands major political commitment. If we do not have land reform that gives women co-ownership rights, gives women inheritance rights, we won’t crack the code on greater agricultural productivity because the women need to have more financial security, to be protected in case they’re widowed. I mean, really some of the saddest stories that I’ve encountered in 20-plus years of doing this work are widows who are pushed off the lands that they tilled with their husbands. And if we don’t protect against theft and give greater investment incentives, then we won’t get the productivity that is promised. So Feed the Future will work on land reform. Feed the Future will also support entrepreneurship development to encourage agricultural growth sector.
For example, in Mali, Feed the Future addresses women’s limited access to finance by providing training in financial management and completing loan applications. I mean, it’s one thing to go to a woman farmer and say, “Gee, you could get credit.” Well, they’ve never done that in their lives, and they’ve got to have support in understanding that. And we know that land reform doesn’t have to be complex. Let me just end with this one example.
In Ethiopia, the government is instituting a simple remedy: Joint titles that have room for the names and photos of both husbands and wives. It’s these kinds of interventions that we can draw attention to because then a woman’s photo, her name, is right there on the land title, and nobody can come and push her off her family land in the event she is widowed.
So there’s a lot of ideas, but that’s why I’m inviting this very distinguished group to give us more and better ideas, because we are open to making policy investments and research projects that will help us develop a new index to determine women’s productivity and access to resources, and to make sure that that’s then shared not only within Feed The Future and our own government, but broadly across the international community.
President Kikwete, Secretary Clinton alluded to your focus on agriculture. You also spent a lot of time in rural Tanzania listening to people. I wonder to what extent does this make sense to you? In Tanzania, are investments in women and agriculture going to get a better return? What is the situation like in rural Tanzania, for example?
Well, first, let me thank Secretary Clinton for convening this discussion and for inviting me this time.
Well, the truth of the matter is women are the major labor force for agriculture in Tanzania, I think for the rest of Africa. They do the work of the farm, they till the farms, they take care of the farms, they hold harvest, and the men will take the crops to the market and take the money – (laughter) – and decide how to spend that money.
And for polygamist cultures of ours, the view is that very same money made another wife from the labor – (laughter) – of the one. This is – but of course, the – of course, we are poor, but women are poorer than men in Africa. The majority of us live in rural areas – Tanzania 80 percent. We depend on agriculture, if we have good returns, to make an impact on alleviating poverty, then tackle the agricultural question. Because agriculture is backward, agriculture, little use of science and technology in production. The hand hoe, as you saw in the picture, is the dominant technology, very little mechanization, and because it’s the women who are working, then the women shoulder all this burden.
But women don’t own property in many of our societies. They don’t own the land; the husband owns the land. The women work on the land. So what we really need to do to help the women, one is make sure that women have access to property. And of course, it’s cultural, because in our country, for example, there are some societies where the girl child doesn’t inherit anything from the father. It’s cultural. But anyway, we’ve got to look into ways of changing some of these cultures. Of course, some of them, we do it through legislation. We make legislations that override the traditional cultures. So if the lady continues to use the traditions, go to the local chiefs, she’ll be subjected to the cultures. But if she goes to the national courts of law, then she gets these advantages. So we’ve been trying to use the legislation to try to help women.
But of course, we need to help women get the inputs, get the high-yielding seeds, get the fertilizers, get the pesticides, the herbicides, but also benefit from mechanization. We cannot continue to leave the women continue to till the land using the hand hoe. Of course, it is a question of government policies on making these inputs available. In our case, we have subsidies, subsidies for seeds, for fertilizers. We have also studied a program of making small tractors available in the rural areas at affordable prices, where the government also subsidizes these prices. But of course, one thing also important is credit systems; make it possible for women to access – to have access to credit so that they can get the input and so on.
Mr. President, if one gives those – that kind of assistance to women, though, isn’t there a risk of a backlash among men, a sense of resentment that may undermine output?
: Well, of course, those who enjoy privileges will always like to – to maintain them is not easy, but I think times are changing, also, because times are changing with education, with economic realities on the ground. You find less and less of the younger men having the inclination of becoming polygamists. It’s more an old tradition, because it gives you – it’s many challenges.
Of course, those who remain traditional will have problems with that, but I think times are changing. Times are changing with education and so on. We don’t have a bigger problem now and we will not have a bigger problem in the future as more and more people have access to education and modern ways of living.
Thank you. Reema Nanavaty, this is your life’s work. This is what you do every day in Gujarat and around India. So can you tell us what the lessons are that you’ve learned? What does work, specifically? Where is there sort of robust evidence of an intervention that actually – in terms of gender, that actually does improve nutrition and improve agricultural output?
Thank you so much, and thank you, Secretary Clinton. I carry a special message from our president, whom you had met. And when I read out the invitation, she said, “Oh, please do,” that the president is now thinking of the right thing that the world needs, and please share our experience that – how did we turn the food crisis into a development opportunity.
So what I’m going to share today in some of our lessons is the work of the 1.5 million women members that, today, I speak here on behalf of. And I think the first and the foremost is organizing – organizing, first recognizing women as farmers, organizing them. It’s a first, a must, and no shortcut to that. And I think we also feel that once organizing women around work as farmers, getting meaningful productive work, then women are also, we feel, much more stable,
much more future oriented, and they build communities which are eager to take on new information, new opportunities. And that’s what our whole experience – when we had the food crisis looming around, how we organized not a few thousand but around 254,000 women farmers. We began from Gujarat, and this is their own agribusiness company.
So I think one lesson is that one has to invest in women, in poor, and letting them build their own agriculture based or farm-based enterprises. And today, I think, as a result of our agribusiness initiative, we have our own brand, which touches around 1.1 million households and ensures them nutrition and food security. We call – it is RUDI. This is also our rural distribution network, and as a result of that, women have taken charge. And we have around 4,000 seed banks. We have fodder banks. We have grain banks in 4,000-plus villages as well.
So I think this is – say that how do you integrate the financial market, the labor market, and the community market. And it has to happen at all levels – the local, the national, and the regional and international levels.
And one of the problems in development is that often something – either you experiment with something and it’ll be a wild success; you try to scale it up and it’s much less successful. So how do you go from some kind of a small-scale success to actually scaling up the kinds of things we’re talking about so that they really work on a large scale?
MS. NANAVATY: I
think we all need to be much more tolerant, much more patient in order for women to scale up their own initiatives. And our experience of four decades now shows that when (inaudible) in women in their enterprises, women are able to take it to scale. I think the barriers are that the governments, the financial institutions, the private sector – everybody needs to come together and invest in women-owned, women-managed, and women-led enterprises in the field of agriculture.
Today, our RUDI is not only scaling itself in India alone, but we are taking it to Afghanistan, we are taking it to Sri Lanka, we are taking it to Nepal. We have sisters who come from Ghana, who come from Malawi, and they all want to take it to their – into their folds. So I think one has to invest, and basically it’s the governments, the private sector, and the financial institutions. One – they need to invest so that women have access to and also control over land and grains and information, both. And then they are able to integrate themselves into the mainstream markets.
One of the things I’ve learned is the degree to which business can be a huge engine for change. And so Paul Polman, you’re from that world. Can you talk a little bit – at Unilever – about how you go about making these kinds of business decisions and whether it is increasingly apparent in the business community that there is a real business case for these investments that put more money in the hands of women farmers, for example?
Yeah. I’ll start – well, first of all, again, thanks for the opportunity as well to be here. I’ll start with a confession. To be honest, before I was on the panel, I really did not spend much time to look at it from an angle of women. Now, I apologize for that, but then it became very apparent that when I looked at all the examples – I’m chairing right now a task force on the G-20 for food security, for example, leading up to the November meetings. And the more examples I looked at, that – just the women kept popping up, and it was very, very clear that looking – not surprising, no? – looking at the programs that we are working with, that most of that is actually driven by women.
When we select things – to be honest, we are a 65 billion company; we buy agricultural materials, about 12 billion worth a year. Fifteen percent of the world tea was our brand, Lipton, and some other things. But it’s very clear when I called our people and I said, “Look at our tea plantations in Muvindi and – which is in your territory – or in Kericho in Kenya, the bulk of them are women.” And then I said, “Are they more productive or not? Because I have to be on the panel.” (Laughter.) And they are, so – (laughter) – so just to know.
The – and I was looking at the report we were writing for the food security, which goes to Sarkozy, and the U.S. Government has been actively involved in this as well, and getting the B-20, as we call it, the Business 20 input into the G-20. And again, I’m ashamed to say we look at all the recommendations we make on increasing investments in agriculture, R&D, making it more sustainable, looking at nutrition as a driving factor, all the things that I’m sure you’re all well familiar with. But again, we failed to look at it from the angle of women.
So one of the commitments I made this morning to someone – and I’ll make it here publicly – that I’ll take this report back home, and it cost me a few more hours, but we have to write it also from the angle of if we – with these statistics that the Secretary shared with us – if we could make that come alive, indeed it will go a long way to filling the gap of the 70 percent that we need in production to get to the 2050 targets.
The way we now – if I look at our programs, to be honest, from our company’s point of view, be it the small-hold farmer projects that we – that we’re having, originally a company like ours, with the volumes we need, you go to the world market, the ADMs, the Cargills, some of the origin markets, be it palm oil from Indonesia or Malaysia. So that’s how you buy 80 percent, and otherwise, you simply cannot get the quantities you need. But increasingly, it is important that we look at this a little bit differently and take core responsibility of some of the challenges that we’re facing on the same food, energy, water nexus that we’re talking about and going to tremendously more sustainable sourcing.
So we as a company have made a commitment to source all of our agriculturally based materials sustainably by 2020. And that’s not an easy thing to do, and we will do that with small-hold farming. And one of the reasons we’re sitting next to each other as a coincidence is not only finding it’s – we’re all on the same panel, but the green growth corridor in Tanzania, for example, is a wonderful example for us. We currently work with about a million small-hold farmers. We have made a public commitment to add another 500,000. Again, not surprisingly, most of those will be women, and increasingly under an angle of the social, equitable, and sustainable elements of that. And that is now becoming increasingly a part of our sourcing strategy.
Kathy Spahn, one thing that I’ve learned from your organization, Helen Keller International, is that one of the keys of nutrition is not just calories, but is micronutrients. And are we – I mean, have we become too focused on sort of quantities in trying to address this? And do we kind of need to change the way we think about promoting nutrition and getting – and what women, indeed, need to focus on?
Well, first, I thank you for a question that is so near and dear to the lifeblood of Helen Keller International, but I also want to thank Secretary Clinton not only for convening this panel, but for ensuring there was a seat for civil society on the panel. It’s very much appreciated.
And yes, we do need to take a broader view. Calories are important. They provide energy, but that’s not enough. We need to ensure that foods are nutritious, and there’s a difference between food and nutrition. You need to have food that has vitamins and minerals in it, what we call micronutrients. A lot of staple crops that we’re talking about growing in larger quantities – maize, rice, cassava – they provide energy in their calories, but they are lacking in the micronutrients that are essential to meet the nutritional needs of very young children, and also to meet the nutritional needs of women of reproductive age.
Micronutrients like vitamin A, iron, zinc – they’re essential for physical and cognitive development. They’re essential for the immune system to function properly. So children who grow up deficient in those micronutrients can have really negative consequences in terms of their survival, in terms of health, in terms of growth, in terms of productivity.
Take vitamin A, which is at the core of our work, and it’s found in dark green, leafy vegetables; in orange fruits, the really good ones like mangoes and papayas; in egg yolks; in liver, vitamin A is essential to prevent blindness in young children, but it is also essential for child livelihood and child survival because vitamin A is necessary for immune system function. So a child who gets calories that don’t have vitamin A in it is not going to be able to fight off common illnesses, whether they get a respiratory illness, they have diarrhea, a child who’s vitamin A deficient may die because their immune system can’t fight that off. And in deference to the Secretary’s remark about the need for research and an evidence base, there is a solid evidence base about this.
Another key micronutrient that you’re all familiar with is iron. Deficiencies in iron can result in reduced IQ in children, increased risk of maternal mortality, and decreased worker productivity from anemia. And in times when food prices go up, what happens is that poorer families, to save money, buy the cheaper staple foods that are lacking in the micronutrients because micronutrient-rich foods – milk, meat, fruits, and vegetables – are much more expensive. And this can have a horrible impact on growth and on health.
But there are solutions; I think that’s a key message. There are solutions in supplementation with vitamin A, with zinc, with iron, but we also need to look, as we are today, at broader food base solutions. So food fortification, wherein the processing of staple foods like cooking oil, you add vitamin A or in the milling of wheat flower, you add iron folate. And then as we’ve been talking about, there is the agricultural aspect. Homestead food production is a great example of community-based, women-centered, small-holder agriculture.
Thank you. If Kathy had her way, you would all come up and go away with a little pack of micronutrients or orange-flesh sweet potatoes or something as you left. (Laughter.)
And you’d be happy. (Laughter.)
Yeah. And full of vitamin A.
Dr. Da Silva, you – in Brazil, you wrestled with and made extraordinary progress in these areas, but there must have been enormous cultural battles along the way when you did, indeed, put more emphasis in bringing women into the front. So I wonder what lessons you can offer us from Brazil’s experience, from your effort there about how one can overcome these kind of cultural obstacles and how one avoids a backlash among men.
MR. DA SILVA:
Well, thank you for the question and thank you for an invitation, Secretary Clinton. Yes, I would like to emphasize another – let’s say the other side of the coin – women’s not important for food production but also for food access and distribution. This is the – perhaps the – in my opinion, the DNA of the mother. The mother is who distributes the food in the house, especially (inaudible). In Brazil, people that are hungry, they are hungry because they don’t have money to buy the food. We have lots of food. We are big exporters. So the problem is how to access the food. And what we did was to have a kind of cash transfer that’s more or less a Brazilian version of the food stamps. In fact, I have spent six months in Santa Cruz, California searching for a good practice because this is another lesson. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to do good things. You just copy and adapt them.
And that’s exactly what we did. We give to the mother a credit card – a visa credit card like that to buy food. And why did we give her the money? The reason that the president of Tanzania told us: because when the man get the money from the market to the house, it disappears part of the money. (Laughter.) And money – mothers are sure that food first is not a slogan. So we have been able to progress quickly in the (inaudible) and especially nutrition as we suffer from the (inaudible) in that sense. There were resistance. For sure there were resistance. We – in the first moment, we made some legal consultation formally to the supreme court, and after we have been recommended to put in a law, now it’s a law in Brazil that the preference goes to the women. So we have now around two million families receiving this kind of cash transfer, and 90, 95 percent goes to the mother.
How to avoid the resistance, involving civil society, especially organized civil society, but also the private sector. From the beginning, from planning to implement the program and keep monitoring closely the program to – well, to find a way out of the problems. It’s a big mistake if you try to make a pilot and then try to scale up. As you said, this will incentivize immigration across the country from poorer areas to the cities, et cetera. We try to do our best to do it quickly; not in a hurry, but quickly with participation of the organized society. And it works. And at the same time, it was very important to have the president directly involved, in fact. This is an issue that the president should address directly his commitment, his self, to push the program.
And the whole idea of the Hunger Zero Program, let’s say the more important, is to improve local markets because when you have subsistence agriculture, poors live in poor areas, especially in rural areas. Their – what they have is subsistence agriculture. This is not enough to push local development. So you have to, with the cash transfer, you give (inaudible) to improve local pushers power locally. And you take this opportunity to implement structural programs like planting reform, like settlements, giving to the women the land rights, et cetera. All of those things need to come together. It’s false that you need urgency first and then structural change; you need to address both at the same time.
Thank you. At this point, we’d like to welcome Raj to join us and thank Secretary Clinton for joining us and for a really terrific engagement here. (Applause.)