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Indigenous Women Living on the Frontlines of Climate Change

Over and over, during the 6th annual Indigenous Women’s Forum in Waspam, we heard the same refrain. Climate change is a clear and present threat to our lives and communities, they shared.

A Harvesting Hope member carrying squash from the organic farm
A Harvesting Hope member carrying squash from the organic farm. © Elizabeth Rappaport

The women said they see it in the irregular weather patterns that make local harvests unpredictable and threaten their food supply. They see it in the intensified storms that have hit the North Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. These tropical storms have washed harvests away, making their food security even more precarious. Just this past week, torrential downpours displaced 33,000 people in Nicaragua.

Natalia Caruso, MADRE Program Director, spoke to two women, Albertina and Severina. They have been active in our Harvesting Hope project, which provides organic seeds to women small-scale farmers.

“The harvest and the crops are impacted by climate change,” said Albertina. “The cabbage and tomatoes are impacted also, and the corn and beans as well. We also need water and a well. We need to have access to water for the community.”

They also spoke about the solutions they have devised to confront climate change. For instance, through Harvesting Hope, our partners have set up a seed bank. From one harvest to the next, they collect and preserve seeds. This not only conserves local biodiversity, it protects seed stores from worsening hurricanes associated with climate change.

Indigenous women in these communities are building a powerful model. They are showing us the potential of a small-scale intervention with outsized impact.

In other words, their seed bank means some measure of food security into the next planting season. But it also gives us a glimpse at what it looks like when people control their food supply. What it looks like when women become community leaders and stage interventions to protect local well-being. In short, it gives us a glimpse at the possible.

Additional resource 

PDF icon Climate justice calls for gender justice: putting principles into action