As we move into 2022 and beyond, food scarcity, shortages, and cost, caused by war, conflict and climate chaos, are creating concern—and the forecast is dire. For the Global South and specific regions, this is even more urgent. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres predicts a “hurricane of hunger.”
The war in Ukraine is a tragic global event, with geopolitical implications that will create serious issues around food security, deepening poverty, and instability. Russia and Ukraine export a majority of the world’s wheat, 50% to the WFP, and Global South countries, several in North, East, and Central Africa. A protracted war in Ukraine will cause a breakdown of the global food system, with wheat and fertilizer costs soaring, along with higher energy costs, all of which will push food prices to dangerously high levels.
Globally, Russia is the No. 1 wheat exporter with Ukraine at the fifth largest, providing over 30 percent of the global wheat supply. In addition, Russia and Ukraine provide the majority of the world’s sunflower oil and fertilizer, which affects others’ ability to grow wheat to replace lost crops. As spring is the time for planting in Ukraine, the war and conditions will prohibit farmers from planting crops, leading to a dangerous food forecast.
Historically, high food prices create not only human suffering, but also instability, conflict, and violence. Ukraine provides 50% of the World Food Programme’s wheat supply. This fact alone will severely compromise global efforts to feed the world’s under-resourced people. For example: Yemen is the site of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with two-thirds of the population needing humanitarian food assistance. Ukraine provides 30 percent of the country’s wheat imports. Without Ukrainian wheat supplies, the food forecast for Yemen and other vulnerable regions is beyond tragic.
Yet, it is not just dwindling wheat exports that create the dire consequences of food shortages. Higher food prices will greatly increase hunger and poor health outcomes. The ability to feed people, support farmers, and sustain food economies will be affected by fertilizer shortages and the high cost of fuel. An estimated increase of 850+ million people may experience hunger and human suffering in some of the world’s most marginalized communities in 2022.
All war and conflict disproportionately impacts women and children, and the current war in Ukraine is no different. Our call to global leaders is to end all conflicts. To create a peace and environment where all human rights are respected—and to respect and protect that environment. But until this happens, WGEF is pivoting once again to meet the moment.
Our goal for 2022 is to expand support and resources for our agriculture initiative. This initiative began in 2010 based on the understanding that for Uganda’s northern region to recover from conflict, it must grow its own food. Local food economies are the best way to stave off famine, food insecurity, shortages, inflation, and conflict.
Currently, WGEF supports 1,196 women involved in our Agriculture and Agri-Business programs who are growing a variety of crops that include corn, sorghum, millet, cassava, and sunflowers for producing sunflower oil for cooking. Each harvest produces between 840,000 and 1.2 million metric tons of maize and sorghum, which supplies local and regional markets. Sorghum and maize are popular and viable substitutes for wheat, which, due to current geopolitical conflicts, will become too expensive and unavailable for many countries in the Global South. Our Agri-Business project supplies and distributes food throughout Uganda, South Sudan, and beyond.
Pivoting our focus and resources to our agriculture program—we will increase sunflower crops, wheat substitutes, and corn—lets us bridge the gap and create a more sustainable food system. Local food economies are the only way to ensure people have access to fresh, diverse, affordable, and consistent food sources.
Food aid is not sustainable, and the global food infrastructure, as we understand, is vulnerable to changing global events. By supporting WGEF’s Agriculture Program, you are preventing hunger, food shortages, and human suffering. This program is proven, efficient, sustainable, and led by courageous women who are the food producers of Africa. Together we can make a difference.
Empowerment is not a destination but a journey. WGEF supports women on their journey for opportunities, equality, and justice. Join us on International Women’s Day 2022!
Organizing for Change | Building Diverse Pathways for Success
Challenging Systemic Inequality
Because we believe that when women and girls have an equal opportunity to learn, grow and connect with others, they will be able to realize their fullest potential. Because every idea counts, and by working together, we can help build a better world.
Join us in celebrating International Women’s Day by recognizing the contribution of women around the world like Lucy who are working hard, adapting to challenges, and breaking through cycles of oppression and poverty.
“As a young woman, I always feared the fact that I witnessed what was happening in my community, where a man is a sole bread winner of the small and sometimes bigger family too. When this man lose income, or are not there for whatever reason to provide for the family, the family crushes. Because the women as the mothers of the home are by tradition been rendered helpless due to a cultural norm of women being less and weak and made to depend on the men for everything, which results into abuse by the men; emotionally and physically.
“When I got married, I was always looking out for an opportunity to make me an economically self-reliant. Now with support from WGEF through their holistic program. I am the woman that I wanted to be. The one who is not too dependent to extend of being abused. I can survive on my own now, making helpful decisions that concerns me independent”.
-Lucy Akello, WGEF Member, Uganda
Aber, 34, is a senior woman teacher at Olwiyo primary school in Nwoya District. Her major role is to mentor and support young girls. Here is her story of courage:
I will not forget this year 2020 in my life, the effects of the pandemic have robbed the future of many young girls. 8 girls have dropped out of school all of them are pregnant and 3 girls were forced to get married. When we open for candidates’ classes in October 2020. The number had drastically dropped from 42 to 29 girls this is sad and unacceptable we must do all what is possible to keep children at school it is the safest way to securing their future.
We are grateful as a school to be selected to benefit from the The Healthy Period Initiative. The timely response to engage girls and boys, parents, teachers and the community on menstrual health and hygiene. The constant supply of lucky girl sanitary pads to all girls before and during COVID-19 pandemic has resulted into girls not missing classes during their periods, their grades have improved and their self-esteem is boosted.
As a senior woman, all girls are my daughters. I want to see every girl join, stay safe, finish school and become career women in future. My school received 800 packs of sanitary pads from WGEF during COVID-19 lock down, with is support we were able two follow up our students and support them with pads a long side information on how to stay safe and avoid corona virus.
We should not give a chance to the disruptions of COVID-19 to destroy the future of children. Lastly, I thank WGEF for a well thought program that influences positive change in our community. “I take my self to be a lucky senior woman teacher as my lucky girls are because we are part of the Healthy Period Initiative”.
Long live WGEF –
Aber senior woman teacher
Olwiyo primary school
Women’s Global Empowerment Fund Offers Women the Tools to Combat Poverty in One of the World’s Most Marginalized Regions
12,000+ new micro-loans and agricultural loans, enabling economic opportunities for women, creating stronger families and communities
4,000+ women facing domestic violence supported at Gulu Women’s Resource Center
89 girls prevented from early and forced marriage through Access to Justice family mediation
150,000+ sanitary pads distributed in 2021 so far, in addition to providing menstrual health education to 42,900+ girls and boys
21 women leaders successfully ran for political office at all levels to amplify women’s voices and take their place at the policy table
The mission of Women’s Global Empowerment Fund is to support women through economic, social, and political programs, creating opportunities while addressing inequality; strengthening families and communities.
As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits Uganda and impacts everyday life, we thank you for your continued support and commitment to WGEF.
During this period of total lockdown, women and girls face increasing dangers and challenges to their health, safety and future. WGEF’s Access to Justice team is fielding a spike in cases of violence and exploitation, and overall we are seeing a dramatic increase in the volume of psychological support that is being sought. Normally, we provide these types of services through our peer counselors stationed at Gulu Women’s Resource Centre. Due to lockdown, we’ve been forced to offer tele-counseling only. On average, four counselors a week are receiving a caseload of 20 to 30 each; that’s over 100 people per week who urgently need our support and resources—an overwhelming number.
WGEF’s fieldwork largely depends on our local network of peer counselors and recently elected community leaders, who move within their villages teaching families about pandemic hygiene and prevention methods. Together with our Village Health Teams (VHTs), these WGEF leaders are on the front lines in communities that lack basic healthcare infrastructure, including PPE that would enable them to safely do their work, avoid infection, and slow transmission.
Periods don’t stop during the pandemic! WGEF has made a commitment to our Healthy Periods Initiative (HPI) to continue manufacturing and distributing sanitary products during the pandemic when many aid efforts are focusing on pandemic-related needs. Girls and women’s menstrual health needs should not be overlooked, and our HPI production unit in Gulu has been doubling its monthly production to 12,000 pads to meet the growing demand from girls whose access to pads came primarily from schools that are now closed. These young women are now home and at risk for sexual violence and exploitation.
Unfortunately, this week, our HPI production unit was forced to shut down when one of our team members contracted COVID-19. She is in stable condition and receiving treatment, and we provided testing to the rest of the team to ensure the safety of all exposed. This means our production has halted for two weeks to allow disinfection and fumigation. It may seem a small blip. We assure you, it is not. Now more than ever, we cannot afford to ignore the reality that girls and women rely on our resources and support to stay safe, maintain dignity, and move freely through their lives. But we cannot do this alone!
We are aligning our programming with COVID-19 resurgence and recovery efforts by continuing to provide microloans to agro farmers, ensuring food security for families locked down in their homes; supporting victims of gender-based violence through our toll-free hotline and tele-counseling services; and doubling down on production and distribution of sanitary products in response to severe disruptions in the supply chain.
We’re grateful that we’ve been able to adapt to the continuing crisis, and we’ll continue to serve our communities as best we can. However, to ensure the safety of the community and our WGEF team, we urgently need your support.
WGEF farmers in northern Uganda are facing huge threats with the re-emergence of COVID-19 due to lockdowns, transportation and marketing disruption, and increased infection rates, especially among marginal and women farmers. As businesses suffer financially, food security is also threatened by increased costs for parts and supplies, the unreliability of cross-border trade, and shortfalls in access.
Even the most successful Ugandan farmers are facing the possibility of losing their business due to circumstances beyond their control but WGEF is supporting them and keeping them connected. We need your help today so that we may reach more women farmers and entrepreneurs and continue to strengthen and build resilient local food markets that can weather difficult times.