International Women’s Day: women are solution for food security and healthy nutrition

Today the world celebrates International Women’s Day. ICCO Cooperation pays attention to women in all its programs around the world.

We believe that women are a solution for food security and healthy nutrition worldwide.

If only women had equal access to resources

In a world of 7 billion people, 2 billion, especially women and children, are malnourished and do not get enough vitamins and/or minerals. At the same time, women can also be the solution for food security and healthy nutrition. According to the FAO, worldwide food production could increase by as much as 20% if women had equal access to productive resources. In addition, research has shown that improving women’s position also has a positive effect on their children’s nutritional status. It is thus important to empower women, for example through economic activities that generate an income.

ICCO’s examples of empowering women

ICCO empowers women in all its projects and programs around the world. Because we believe that stronger women  will contribute to more food security and better nutrition.

Bangladesh: women become nutrition sales agents

In Bangladesh, more than 50% of women suffer from chronic energy deficiency. Nutrition Sales Agents play a key role to sell products and disseminate nutrition messages. ICCO trained 320 women to become Nutrition Sales Agents, who visit households every month to give hygiene sessions and provide counseling to address specific nutritional needs. For this, ICCO has developed short mobile movies on amongst others dietary diversity, diarrhea and complementary feeding to inspire behavior change. These videos are shown to groups of women and adolescent, who not only enjoy the sessions, but become more aware and learn about health and nutrition related issues.

Mali: women become beekeepers and sell honey

Beekeeper Mali
In Mali, ICCO stimulates 3,000 rural women in becoming an entrepreneur for organic beeswax. The beeswax market in Europe is a lucrative and growing market. Within the project, the farmers have started organic beekeeping to produce beeswax, which is then delivered to local private enterprises that process, pack, ship and sell the products. In return for steady deliveries, the buyer companies guarantee reasonable and fixed prices for the women farmers. The income of beeswax and honey is an extra source of income for the women, next to shea. This helps strengthen the women’s resilience by diversifying their sources of income.

Colombia: woman entrepreneur sells handmade chocolate to European market

Colombian chocolate maker
In Colombia, ICCO supports the entrepreneur Ana Margarita who makes handmade chocolates. Ana went to France 10 years ago to study to become a professional chef.  There she gained knowledge about the cacao market, preparation of cacao, recipes and techniques. She obtained a degree in Culinary Arts at the Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, one of the world’s most renowned chefs. In France, she realized that the Colombian chocolate market wasn’t good enough, because the best quality chocolate is exported in bulk. When she came back to Colombia in 2009, she decided to start her own chocolate company, selling chocolates to the local markets. In December 2016, her first chocolates were shipped to Europe. Ana only works with women in her management and production team, providing women a secure and stable income.

Indonesia: women farmers increase their rice production

Indonesian woman working on land
The demand for rice in Indonesia is growing from year to year whereas production is decreasing. Farmers in Central Java are able to increase the supply, however, they produce low quality rice and they face many production challenges. Therefore, ICCO trains and coach 10,000 farmers in using certified seeds, organic fertilizers and pesticides so as to improve the production of high premium rice.

Women work especially in the harvesting and post-harvesting periods and their work is all hand-labor and largely underpaid. In this project, ICCO works on the entrepreneurship of women by supporting them in becoming the owners of harvest equipment. This harvest equipment is designed with women in mind, meaning it is lightweight and doesn’t require more than one woman to operate or handle, allowing women to work faster and therefore, earn more. It is expected that the income of women farmers will increase by 30%, which allows them to buy better food for their families.

Uganda: business woman hit the market with breakfast drink

Business woman Uganda
In Uganda, ICCO supports the young startup AEN Uganda of business woman Esther Gloria. AEN Uganda makes a nutritious breakfast drink called ‘bushera’. Gloria started working with only one farmer who provided her millet and sorghum, the two most important ingredients for the Bushera drink. She now works with around one hundred farmers, most of them women. AEN Uganda puts special emphasis on women empowerment in order to uplift their standards of living. Women farmers are trained on modern methods of farming, are given improved varieties of sorghum and millet and are assured of market access.

Sustainable Development Goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.