World Pulse

The Next Green Frontier

Posted March 29, 2010

By Zainab Salbi


Women for Women International founder and CEO Zainab Salbi the green revolution starts with women.

Today we are facing a global food, nutrition, and climate crisis. Over the past few years, nearly 100 million people have been added to the global count of chronically hungry worldwide. Food prices have jumped almost 80%, pushing thousands of families on the brink into poverty and hunger. Environmentally damaging agricultural practices such as deforestation compound the CO2emissions that are causing greenhouse effects. Chemically enhanced fertilizers contaminate the ground and strip the Earth of necessary nutrients.

We cannot build sustainable democracies, economies, or solutions for climate change and food shortages if we do not fully incorporate women in policy responses. There isn’t a better story to illustrate the disconnect between the reality of women and the theory of policy than this food crisis and the agricultural strategies that aim to address it.

In our agricultural policy, we fail to consider issues like nutrition and food security, climate change, and the significant but often unrecognized fact that 70% of the world’s farmers are women. Women produce 90% of the staple food crops, such as rice and maize—the crops that feed the world. Women also prepare these crops for household and community consumption, eating last or not at all when food is scarce. And women do the majority of tasks that involve close proximity to the environment, such as farming and fetching water, and hence shoulder a disproportionate amount of the danger associated with pollution and climate change.

Women’s agricultural empowerment is the next frontier for the global women’s movement. When women produce the majority of the world’s food but own less than 2% of the land, it becomes an issue of economic as well as gender justice. Women have the right to enjoy the profits of their labor and the peace of mind of knowing their daughters can inherit the land they farm. Women have the right to eat a full and balanced meal and to work in an environment not poisoned by toxic chemicals. And we have the ability to realize this vision.

There are several programs underway that can jump start the revolution. For example, at Women for Women, we’re teaching women sustainable farming techniques that maximize profit and nutritional value while supporting environmental preservation, community agricultural, and economic development. Women learn to farm a diversity of crops for household consumption and higher profits, at the same time as they are equipped with techniques that enhance the ecological balance of natural ecosystems.

In Rwanda, where land is at a premium, and in land-rich Sudan, in partnership with local government, we have secured a long-term land lease that enables women to control the land they farm and access the highest returns on their labor. Women in South Sudan are on track to earn double the per-capita GDP after only six months. Also in Rwanda, women learn to construct vertical kitchen gardens, which maximize soil efficiency and make a significant impact on household nutritional security. Women farmers turn grain bags, tires, and other household items into vertical planters and use their livestock’s natural animal waste for fertilizer.

In my work with women farmers, I have seen that, as in so many other sectors, women are the key to our success in agriculture and environmental policy. Women are integrating environmentally friendly practices into agriculture production. They are cultivating the crops that will combat food and nutrition crises and stimulate local markets in the time of economic crisis. I’ve heard much talk about a green revolution, but rarely are women’s voices taken into account in our conceptions of it. The time has come to make those voices heard, to make agricultural and environmental policy reflective of those who are most impacted by it. The green revolution is a women’s revolution.

Comments 9

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Apr 10, 2010
Apr 10, 2010

Zainab: I am overjoyed to have found you and your organization. Just loved your article and your mission. Looking forward to getting your website known and becoming more involved with you all. A question: Why no RSS feed on this website (or at least that I can't readily see)? With Great Respect Pam @pdjmoo

Kim Crane
Apr 27, 2010
Apr 27, 2010

Hi Pam! Thank you so much for your feedback on Zainab's article! We do now have an RSS feed which you can access at the following links:

Editorial content: spotlights: News and Commentary:

This is still a new feature for us so we haven't publicized it yet, but look out for it soon! Again, we appreciate your excellent feedback and hope you will let us know if there are any other features that you would like to see!


Kim Crane Assistant Editor World Pulse

Nusrat Ara
Apr 22, 2010
Apr 22, 2010

Dear Zainab,

Just today I read about you in Half the Sky , you are a wonderful woman doing wonderful work.


Sep 30, 2013
Sep 30, 2013

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This is what YOU and all other right wing religious extremists do

The ONLY difference between YOU and those in al shabaab is your geographical birth place and your skin color

IF one were to take YOU as a baby and change your skin color and move you over there you would be doing the EXACT same thing

IF one takes one from alshabaab and changes his skin color and as a baby moves him to the US he would become a christian fundamentalist like you and assault small children

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charles Holsopple
Apr 26, 2010
Apr 26, 2010

Me for one. As I continue my struggle to make a contribution to mankind, to be sure womankind as well, I draw strength from your essence and grace. Thank you, bless you and may you find rest and joy as you fight the battles of the millions of nameless faces of despair.

Apr 28, 2010
Apr 28, 2010

I am so inspired by your work for women, Zainab. Recently, I read about your work in Half The Sky and am about to read your book Between Two Worlds: Escape From Tyranny. I am trained in nutrition and studied environmental science so I strongly agree with your stance above and how women are the power behind a new agriculture/nutrition/environment revolution.

Thank you for inspiring me.

Michelle Sadlowski

Nov 14, 2010
Nov 14, 2010

This is an inspiring. Just to add that we need to factor in programmes to help families space births. There is a close link between population factors and environment ( in this case food production). This whole thing needs to be well planned and integrated.

Apr 10, 2011
Apr 10, 2011

I am very much influenced by this blog.

Carl Bingham
Apr 02, 2013
Apr 02, 2013

Zainab, I really appreciate the work done by you organization in empowering women at work. I was surprised to know from your post that 70% of the world’s farmers are women. I do agree with your view that the green revolution is a women’s revolution