UC Davis nutrition researcher Sonja Hess, left, greets Steve Hollingworth, CEO of Freedom From Hunger, at a women in agriculture panel discussion Tuesday evening at the UCD Conference Center. Looking on is Swe Swe Win, a Humphrey Fellow visiting from Myanmar and another panelist. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Local News

‘Breaking the cycle of hunger … begins with women’

By From page A3 | January 23, 2014

Female leaders in global and local agriculture, food and nutrition spoke to a crowd of several hundred people Tuesday night at UC Davis.

The event — “Women Feeding the World: Farmers, Mothers and CEOs” — was inspired by author Nicholas Kristof’s “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,” the focus of the 2013-14 Campus Community Book Project.

Humphrey fellow Swe Swe Win of the United Nations World Food Programme spoke about managing projects empowering women for 12 years in Myanmar.

“Breaking the cycle of hunger and poverty at its roots begins with women,” Win said. “Putting food in the hands of women ensures household food security, and household rations are issued in the name of women.”

Win told the story of Daw Nyo of Myaepadone village — a mother of four with no education who works as a farm laborer while her husband and son migrate in search of work.

Nyo could have removed her children from school, Win said, but she had a strong desire for her children to complete their education. Nyo sends her kids to school regularly and receives a monthly ration from WFP, which empowers her to feed her family.

“Now my generation has improved,” Nyo told Win. “I feel my children will have a brighter future.”

Sonja Hess of the department of nutrition at UCD spoke of her research to change social acceptance of breastfeeding in several west African countries.

She spoke of the importance of breastfeeding within the first hour of life, which causes a significant increase in the survival rates of newborns. Also, from birth to 6 months, a child should receive nothing but breast milk as well as continuing on to 24 months with a gradual introduction to solid foods.

Many cultural hurdles have been overcome, she said, such as colostrum being considered dirty or giving babies water instead of breast milk in very hot climates.

Hess found ways to allow the incorporation of colostrum into traditional potions for newborns. Her group also held workshops with older women of the communities to discuss the importance of breastfeeding.

From a local perspective, Jessica Lundberg of Lundberg Family Farms — a major rice producer in Chico — spoke about differences between local rice-growing practices and those overseas, as well as her own personal commitment to Heifer International, a nonprofit that fights global poverty and hunger.

The following correction was published Sunday, Jan. 26:

In Thursday’s story titled “Breaking the cycle of hunger … begins with women,” Sonja Hess was paraphrased as saying her group “found ways to allow the incorporation of colostrum into traditional potions for newborns,” which was in error.

Rather, Hess does not recommend that breast milk be mixed into traditional potions, and she spoke of the importance of collaborating with the traditional leaders to promote better understanding of the importance of exclusive breastfeeding practices. Such collaborations can prevent the practice of traditional potions being given to infants.

Jason McAlister

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