A number of forces – including transnational land acquisitions, increased national investment in agriculture, migration patterns, environmental concerns and laws and policies at different levels – have come together in recent years to put commercial pressure on land in the South and encourage its commodification. This has accelerated processes of agrarian transition, affecting rural livelihoods and the right to food.
The outcomes of these processes differ for women and men. Evidence shows that food insecurity is gendered and that women and girls are more likely to suffer from undernourishment. There is further evidence that women do not gain as much as men from agricultural modernization or from large-scale industrial agriculture. Studies demonstrate, however, that household food security and child nutrition improve when women have greater control over income, land and decision-making.
DEMETER (Droits et Egalité pour une Meilleure Economie de la Terre) is a six-year project, launched in 2015 and funded by the Research for Development Programme (r4d) of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. It examines the relationship between the right to food and gender equality in ensuring food security in the context of land commercialization in two case-study countries, Cambodia and Ghana.
Its overall objective is to strengthen knowledge about the relationship between food security, the right to food and gender equality in order to empower women and men to claim their rights and encourage governments to facilitate their realization. The project also aims to strengthen awareness of the relevance of rights-based, gender-equitable approaches to food security among stakeholders at the local, national and international levels through training, policy dialogue and publications.
Coordinating the Human Rights Component
As a co-coordinator – along with the Centre on Gender and Global Change at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana and Center for Development Oriented Research in Agriculture and Livelihood Systems in Cambodia – the Geneva Academy is leading the human rights components of this research. This is in partnership with development economists, political scientists, agronomists and anthropologists in Cambodia, Ghana and Switzerland.
In September 2015, the Geneva Academy organized a workshop on right to food indicators, which brought together DEMETER researchers and researchers from the Towards Food Sustainability project, also co-coordinated by the Geneva Academy and funded by the Swiss r4d programme. The workshop examined ways of measuring the realization of the right to food in the four countries studied by the projects (Bolivia, Cambodia, Ghana, and Kenya). It was significant not only for its substantive findings, but also for the fact that it was the first time in the history of the food security r4d funding scheme that two projects have held a joint event. Collaboration and exchanges will continue throughout the lifetime of both projects.
Outputs of the project include: policy and legal briefings, training for community members and policy-makers, academic publications and presentations at conferences and other national and international events related to gender equality and food security.