UN World Food Programme initiative to help female farmers, families in Ecuador

The World Food Programme and Ecuador's government will nourish families with produce from women farmers. The initiative will alleviate hunger and malnutrition in Ecuador, where 87 percent of households live in poverty.

Guillermo Granja/Reuters/File
Sara Palma, 54, puts away food from a table at her home in Ibarra in April. The World Food Programme and Ecuador's provincial governments will assist 1,000 local families by providing them with produce sourced from women smallholder farmers.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and provincial governments in Ecuador will be assisting 1,000 local families by providing them with produce sourced from women smallholder farmers.

The program, called Strengthening Local Government Capacities to Improve Food and Nutrition Security, will simultaneously address malnutrition in women and children and the challenges that women smallholders face in managing their farm businesses.

Local governments in several regions of Ecuador were motivated to partner with the WFP by a desire to maintain and support local food security for rural families and to improve the livelihoods of women smallholder farmers. Several governments, including those in Carchi and Santa Elena, are collaborating with the WFP to improve the diet and nutrition of families with children from six to 36 months-old; an age group for which optimal nutrition is critical for development.

Hunger and malnutrition disproportionately affect women and children in rural regions of Ecuador, where, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 87 percent of households live in poverty. Inequities in how resources are distributed in Ecuador also result in women and children having reduced access to basic foods. Moreover, many rural women smallholders in Ecuador face challenges to maintaining their farming businesses, which include discrimination, climate change—which has reduced agricultural productivity—and poor access to markets.

Since September, the program has been providing families with monthly WFP vouchers that are redeemed for produce sold by women farmers from small farmer associations. Local government offices then compensate the women farmers for the vouchers. The program will also provide local schools with vouchers that will allow them to purchase local produce from women farmers, which will be used to prepare more nutritional meals for school children.

Families in the program will be educated about topics including nutrition, hygiene, as well as food handling and preparation that will allow them to maximize the nutritional value of the produce they receive from the women farmers. The WFP will also help women farmers produce more resilient, organic crops, negotiate contracts, and master the business administration skills needed to link them to markets.

In addition to promoting the health of participating families, the program will support the local smallholder economy. By sourcing fresh produce—for the families in the program and other food assistance programs—from small farmer associations, the program will help women farmers cultivate more stable connections to markets and earn a steadier income.

The program aims to help women overcome barriers that they face—discrimination and poor access to resources and education—by increasing their autonomy, particularly smallholders, in decision-making about family nutrition and agricultural production.

The project will include an evaluation conducted by the WFP and the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO) to measure the program's impact on family nutrition among the children of Santa Elena and the incomes of the participating smallholder farmers.

The WFP aims to augment the development of government welfare programs in Ecuador by helping local governments participating in the program identify the most efficient method of securing and supplying produce grown by women farmers for domestic social programs in the long term.

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