We must invest more in local agriculture to help the hungry

Hunger is a scandal that has weighed heavily on me, especially since I became a mother.  And hunger is set to get much, much worse, as climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as floods, drought, and storms that destroy crops, livestock, and livelihoods.

Women are especially struggling to grow their crops and provide for their families. When disaster strikes, women have less access to resources to cope and are more likely to die than men.  And when hunger hits a household, women are the ones who sacrifice their nutrition for the benefit of their children and family.

But women around the world are fighting back, and we can help them. As we mark another World Food Day this year, we must stand in solidarity with them and sow the seed for change.

A year ago, I traveled to Peru with humanitarian organization Oxfam America to meet with women farmers and learn about the challenges they face and the innovative adaptation techniques they are employing to cope.

Many of the farmers I spoke with told me that the weather is increasingly unpredictable, making growing potatoes, a staple in the local diet, harder and harder every season.

Marisa Marcavillaca, a farmer near Cusco and leader of a National Indigenous Women’s Organization told me that often, women are the ones who go hungry if there is not enough food, giving whatever food is available to the men and children in the family. And if there is not enough money to send all of the children to school, it is often the young girls who end up staying home.

What moved me most was the determination and drive that Marisa and the other farmers I met had to combine the knowledge passed on from generation to generation with today’s scientific expertise to adapt their farming practices to the changing climate. They are not taking this lightly. They are fighting back.

The passion that I saw in the eyes for their land, and the food they produce was inspiring. Hearing that they barely earn enough to put food on the table for their own children was heartbreaking.

Now more than ever, I am convinced that we must invest more – and more wisely – in local agriculture to help poor farmers lift themselves out of poverty.

Giada De Laurentiis is an Emmy Award winning celebrity chef who has hosted several successful series on Food Network and is a regular contributor to the “Today Show.”  Additionally, De Laurentiis is an Ambassador for international relief and development organization, Oxfam America. For more information, please visit www.oxfamamerica.org/giada.