Thursday, November 8, 2007

Mother Earth

I attended an update on the millennium development goals at the UN today and learned that 80 per cent of sub Saharan Africa's small farmers are women. They walk an average of 4 miles a day to get their water, and they produce 90 per cent of the continent's food (elsewhere I've seen reports at 75- 80 per cent. Regardless: a preponderance). But for a variety of reasons, including the fact that (and this may be garbled; at the very least an overgeneralization; but I couldn't stay long enough to clarify during the q&a) they are not considered farmers socially (qua gender, as I understood it), they have the least access to technical and other information to help them improve their methods and lives. Only 17 per cent of the arable land in the region is under cultivation. Almost half of the population of the region lives on less than $1 per day.

(None of this is really surprising, of course. But I am reminded of how much is really at stake in an internationalist feminism: something I've always believed in and at times fought for--but if you live in a wealthy nation and don't commonly find yourself in the academic or activist situations that would tend to remind you--well, it does tend to become an abstraction. Even modest activities such as today's are salutary under such circumstances).

These statistics were offered as part of a presentation on progress toward millennium development goal #1: 'Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger'. The chart that accompanies this update in The Millennium Development Goals Report shows that since 1999, progress (even if slight) has been made toward this goal in every region except for Western Asia, where poverty rates have more than doubled since 1990. The narrative report doesn't comment on this. I can think of a few possible reasons. Check this out, too.

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