Asia farmers‘ network resound strong call to Stop Golden Rice!

Press Statement

Stop Golden Rice! Defend our Farmers‘ Rights! remains the resounding call of Asia farmers‘ network against the impending commercialization of Golden Rice in Asia. Four years after the militant uprooting of Golden Rice, waves of protest mobilizations stirs anew in the Philippines and Bangladesh against its commercialization, while debate rages on in Indonesia, India and other Asian countries where Golden Rice is planned for commercial release.

Today, a protest campaign in front of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) was held by hundreds of farmers and civil society supporters led by the National Women Farmers and Workers Association (NWFA) and Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation (BAFLF). A public forum on GMOs and Golden Rice was also held by NWFA and BAFLF few days back last August 4-5 in Gazipur to bring the public issue to the fore.

Nasrin Sultana of NWFA explained that “Since 2006, we have consistently protested and even formed a barricade in BRRI against Golden Rice. We denounce the government approval of Golden Rice commercialization. The public must be alarmed with the great risks of Golden Rice consumption to food safety and public health. Golden rice commercialization equates to billions worth of annual corporate profit in expanse of consumers’ health and farmers’ seed freedom. This cannot be allowed”.  

The Golden Rice debate is marred by conflicts and controversy. After decades of research, the efficacy, safety and viability of Golden Rice remains uncertain and pose grave threat to food safety and consumers’ health. It is within this ground that government of China and academic journal publishers sanctioned and retracted the research work of scientists who engaged in unethical feeding of Golden Rice to children whose families were not informed that they were being fed Golden Rice last 2012. To date, there are no published reports proving that Golden Rice is safe for human consumption. Add to this the recent published study stating that Golden Rice is unfit for commercial cultivation due to poor agronomic performance leading to low yield.

Aliansi Gerakan Reform Agrari (AGRA), a national peasant federation in Indonesia in statement expressed that “Indonesia, as with the whole region, is also threatened by the growing corporate control over agriculture and consequent erosion of traditional seed resources. The government promotes GMOs and 80-90% of our soybeans and corn imports are GMOs. The Indonesia National Food Policy proclaimed to boost volume of food production, mainly rice production with the application of genetic engineering of 19 food crops, primarily rice, corn, sorghum, and soybean. Golden Rice will be an eventual real threat to our farmers, making it an imperative for us to campaign and support the Asia wide campaign against Golden Rice commercialization”

India host two-thirds of the world’s rice varieties. Campaigns in India have gained momentum against genetically engineered rice, including the Save our Rice network, the Folk Rice Movement and the Seed Mothers movement; all working to conserve and salvage thousands of traditional and indigenous seed varieties which would have otherwise been eroded by the onslaught of hybrid technology and conventional chemical inputs in the past decades. Recent news on the establishment of IRRI’s South Asia’s Regional Centre in city of Varanasi in the last quarter of 2017 have raised alarm as it may serve as a pretext to the government’s aggressive move to commercialize genetically engineered rice. The bitter tragedy hundred thousands of farmers succumbing to suicide in the past decade is linked with debt chains acquired from the seed monopoly of Monsanto thru BT Cotton in the cotton belt region remain to haunt the country.

In Philippines, the Golden Rice issue was stirred anew with the renewed application for field trial and direct use last February 2017 despite the absence of public dialogue. To commemorate the historic uprooting and protest action against golden rice last August 8, 2013, hundreds of farmers will gather to hold a public forum in Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon, the rice granary of the country where Philippine Rice Research Insitute (PhilRICE) Golden Rice experimental fields are located. A civil society roundtable discussion on August 10 and a public dialogue between government and civil society will also be on August 11 within the national capital to re-echo public opposition against Golden Rice.

“Golden Rice is a greedy scientific enterprise of IRRI and corporations masked as humanitarian aid. It deviates from the real solution to malnutrition which is to fight poverty, uphold genuine agrarian reform and promote diverse nutritious, natural and easily accessible food sources. Its ultimate interest is to secure top profit arena and monopoly control of global food system since billions rely, produce and consume rice. The looming Golden Rice commercialization anchored on neoliberal market will flood the region with massive and unregulated trade of GM rice. This spells doom to our country where the quantitative restriction on rice importation will soon be lifted. Golden rice is a death reaper to our local local rice sector as traditional rice varieties will be vulnerable to GMO contamination. Stop Golden Rice! is a call to defend life and freedom against this oppressive claws of corporate control” stated by Cristino Panerio, National Coordinator of the Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), a local farmer-scientist movement in the forefront of campaigns against golden rice commercialization in the past decade.

Since its inception in 2001, Syngenta (currently merged with ChemChina), Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation among others have poured millions of funds thru the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the research and promotion of Golden Rice, a genetically engineered rice touted to address Vitamin A deficiency. But, strong and consistent peoples’ protests in the past decades impeded its planned commercialization particularly in Bangladesh, Philippines and India.

In August 8, 2013, more than 400 farmers led the historic uprooting of Golden Rice experimental fields at Pili, Camarines Sur to signal strong opposition to Golden rice trials and commercialization. Corporate proponents thru their media mouthpieces, such as Mark Lynas ang Patrick Moore, vilified the farmers’ direct action. The peasant movement in the Philippines, however, reiterated their dissent against Golden Rice as a legitimate conviction to defend rights against corporate control of agriculture thru GMOs.

An Asia Farmers’ Conference against Golden Rice was subsequently held in 2014 with more than 70 farmers, people’s organizations from the region echoing their stand against Golden Rice. The campaigns proved successful as it triggered broader public attention, institutional debate and exposed the deceitful corporate claims on the Golden Rice issue in the national and international arena – ultimately leading to postponement of its commercialization.###

Established in 2014 and reconvened this 2017, the Stop Golden Rice! Network is a regional campaign collaboration of more than 30 organizations in South Asia and South East Asia. It works against the commercialization of Golden Rice and other forms of genetically modified crops, towards a society with equity, food sovereignty, sustainable and ecology-based agriculture. This is joint statement of its lead convening organizations and networks.

For more details please contact:

Ms Ana Christina Bibal
Project Coordinator
STOP GOLDEN RICE! Network
09171433109 / stopgrnetwork@gmail.com

 

STOP GOLDEN RICE! Network members:

RESIST! Agri-TNCs Network- Philippines, MASIPAG (Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura), KMP (Kilusang Mangbubukid ng Pilipinas), PNSFP (Philippine Network for Food Security Programs), SIBAT (Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya), HEAD (Health action for Democracy), PAN Phils (Pesticide Action Network-Phils, TFIP (Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights), CENDI (Community Entrepreneur Development Institute), SRD (Center for Sustainable Rural Development), Vietnam, SPFT (Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand), AGRA (Alliance of Agrarian Reform Movement), SERUNI National Women’s Alliance, Indonesia, NWFA (National Women Farmers and Workers Association), BAFLF (Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation), SHISUK (Shikha Shastha Unnayan Karzakram), Bangladesh, APVUU (Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union), ORRISSA (Organization for Rural Reconstruction and Integrated Social Services Activities), CREATE, India THANAL, India, Save Our Rice Network, India, PAN-INDIA (Pesticide Action Network-India), India, GRAIN, PAN-AP (Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific), APC (Asian Peasants Coalition), Consumers Union of Japan, Women’s Development Federation WELIGEPOLA, MONLAR, Sri Lanka

 

Acceptance speech: PANAP Executive Director acknowledges millions of rural women

I would like to thank KEMI for nominating me and the members of the selection committee. As a woman, a feminist, and an advocate of agroecology and for the elimination of pesticides, it is an honour to be one of the recipients of the “Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified” award.

Let me acknowledge the millions of rural women on the ground who are in the frontlines of the struggle against highly hazardous pesticides in their daily lives as farmers, workers, and consumers. This recognition I dedicate to and share with them.

They have inspired me with their commitment to protect their children, their families, and their communities from hazardous pesticides and to work for non-chemical alternatives. The reality of pesticide use in the farms and plantations is horrendous and women as sprayers often do not have the information about what they are spraying and what the impacts are. When they are poisoned, there is no medical support. Their health issue, like issues of women in general, are rarely taken seriously. This is because as women, they are still in position of subordination in their homes and communities, and at the national level.

It has been my privilege to contribute in the struggle of women through our work at PANAP. In our little way, we help build the capacity of women to monitor the impact of pesticides on health and the environment through what we call community pesticide action monitoring or CPAM. This process helps women become more organised to take action against harmful pesticides in their communities and at the national level. We take the results of these community monitoring initiatives to the global level such as here in the BRS and other platforms. By doing so, we hope to highlight the reality faced by many communities that are exposed to highly hazardous pesticides and lobby for policy reforms.

Aside from pesticide monitoring, we also provide support to women and other rural sectors for capacity building in agroecology. All these efforts are meant to ensure that women and children and the communities are no longer poisoned and silenced; and that they have sustainable livelihoods, healthy and safe environment, and production systems that are just.

This recognition will serve as an inspiration for me to continue in my advocacy for women and the environment, for agroecology and food sovereignty, and for social justice.

Thank you.

 

 

PANAP’s Sarojeni Rengam clinches award for championing women’s struggle against toxic pesticides

For her efforts in championing women’s issues in various campaigns against toxic pesticides in the past 25 years, Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of Malaysia-based PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), was recognized in the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions on May 3, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Rengam was among the recipients of the ‘Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified’ award given by the BRS Conventions for distinguished advocates of advancing gender equality and mainstreaming gender issues in the area of chemicals and wastes.

In her speech accepting the award, Rengam acknowledged the millions of rural women on the ground that are in the frontlines of the struggle against highly hazardous pesticides in their daily lives as farmers, workers, and consumers.

“This recognition I dedicate to and share with them. This will serve as an inspiration for me to continue in my advocacy for women and the environment, for agroecology and food sovereignty, and for social justice,” Rengam said.

Ule Johanson, senior advisor for Development Cooperation, International Unit of Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) who nominated Rengam for the award said, “We are very happy to hear that Ms. Rengam has received this award. Her long and persistent fight for human rights at all levels and in particular for rural women is noteworthy and makes her a perfect choice.”

Dr. Burnad Fathima Natesan of the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC) said this is a proud moment for many rural women whose rights and interests Rengam has steadfastly fought for in PANAP’s campaigns, including on harmful pesticides and right to land and resources.

“The impact and awareness she has created in helping rural women understand the hazards of pesticide application in their fields and the impacts on one’s health, especially on women’s reproductive health, makes her the right person for this award,” Burnad said.

Burnad pointed out that Rengam has initiated a special program called Women and Agriculture in PANAP to study and look into the aspect of women’s land rights and to expose the role of corporations in promoting highly hazardous pesticides. “The rural women from India and from women’s movements in the region rejoice over this special moment,” said Burnad.

The PANAP official is known for her strong position on issues of women, farmers, farm workers, indigenous people and other marginalised rural sectors.

Glorene Amala, Executive Director of Tenaganita, a Malaysia-based advocacy group working with migrants, refugees and women, described Rengam as an “embodiment of women empowerment”. She continues to inspire women through her leadership by building women’s resistance against pesticides and chemicals through many programs and activities nationally, regionally and at the global level,” Amala said.

Situations change when people are informed and empowered.

“To make things change you have to educate and empower people. To improve farming conditions and reduce the negative impact of pesticide use you have to collect evidence of malpractice and cases of people getting hurt. Rengam has done all of this, and year by year conditions start to improve,” said KEMI’s Ule.

Amala added, “Her (Rengam’s) work has brought about tremendous changes in the lives of those who have been affected with pesticides and chemicals as she led many of them in global actions and movement on environment issues, food security and sovereignty, and women’s rights over land and productive resources.”

Based in Switzerland, the BRS Conventions are multilateral environmental agreements that aim to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes. The “Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified” award is part of its activities on gender equality.

Click here to read Sarojeni Rengam’s acceptance speech

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Growing Our Food Without Polluting Our Pristine Water Source With Farmer Fung

Today is World Water Day, and we are featuring the interview of Famer Fung who believes in the principle of living in harmony with nature and growing our food without polluting our pristine water source.

Below are 7 questions we asked Farmer Fung about living in harmony with nature through organic farming.

1. There are a lot of benefits in being an organic farmer, but could you relate some of the wisdom that people tend to overlook in being an organic farmer?
In organic farming one of the great bonuses you get is very soon you will realise that it is not you the farmer that is cultivating the land, but it is the land that is cultivating you. The land – the great provider, great teacher, if you pay attention, you tend to learn a lot from the land and from farms. That tends to make you a more peaceful, relaxed and healthier person.

2. Why many farmers tend to use pesticides instead of using organic means to farming?
Farmers, we are trained today to plan, focus, and to improve on things for better efficiency. So, I must learn to specialize, improve on efficiency, cut down on labour and cost. If I were to use compost, it is going to take 30 days, but if I use those powerful chemical fertilizers, I can cut down by a week. Maybe, for that reason people opt for the chemicals.

3. Do they realize the harm that they are exposing the consumers to?
Not just the consumers, but farmers also lose in terms of their health when exposed to all these chemicals every day. The farm workers are the first to be affected, our soil will be polluted, our water source will be polluted, even the air and (eventually) consumers will be polluted.

4. Nature brings a balance to human life as opposed to chemicals, do you agree?
The chemical that is used here, we can see the effect many, many years down the road, or even many miles down the road. The damage is far and wide. You get a lot of return when you are able to practice this – living in harmony. Nature will provide you with tonnes if you don’t interfere or cause too much damage. It is the good part of organic farming.

5. Why farmers are so hell bent in destroying pests? Is there any other way to approach this issue?
The so-called “pests” are also good neighbours in the sense that they understand what we need – these are not pests. We should not use all the harmful chemicals to kill them. It just does not make sense. But as for weeds, they rob your plants of nutrients, what people don’t understand is that – as there are two sides to a coin – they offer good habitat for other insects and to control other unfriendly insects. So they are helping us.

6. Does that apply to the habitat as well?
During raining season, these weeds help to hold the soil to prevent soil erosion so we should be grateful, whereas during drought, they (weed) provide shade, also to the soil. The microbes in the soil are then happy – it’s nice and cool. If it is too dry, they can’t survive. When microbes are unhappy in the soil, you won’t be a happy farmer as the microbes are unable to help. So the so-called “weed”, it is not necessary to kill. You just need to change your vision on it. You must learn to respect nature and try to learn the good way to live in harmony with nature with other friends: birds, insects etc. So we learn to live with them in harmony. So if there’s harmony, when the yin & yang is balanced, the good and the bad is balanced, then you are a happy farmer. You of course will win some and lose some. There will still be insects that come but not in large numbers, which we understand “they have some and we have some”.

7. Is there a way of planting a single crop and surviving the pest?
Another reason for growing a large number of crops is we crop-rotate. What happens if it is the same crop day in and day out, then a particular kind of nutrient in the soil will be depleted. Soil-bound disease will strike. So what do you do when soil-bound disease is here? You spray with chemical to kill them – again it is the cost and pollution to worry. But our crops here we crop-rotate. Today we plant lettuce, tomorrow it will be legumes, beans, and after that it is celery. Later on, we put compost again. We take care of the soil and don’t force-feed the plants. If you force-feed them with all those powerful chemical fertilizers, they grow fast but the soil tends to be acidic. Then you have to deal with another problem. Our plants here take their own time to grow – naturally – there is a reason for the big guy to create things like that, so before we know it let us not be too arrogant, you know, to decide what should live and what should not live. We should learn and that can be a very happy experience, a great life to learn and to share, to appreciate each other, live in harmony. It is good for everybody.

According to UN Water, “Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.”

We hope the wisdom shared by Farmer Fung, help in raising awareness towards preserving the limited safe water supply that we have. To ensure a safe water supply, we also need to protect our land and air. Only then we can achieve a balance in nature.
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Replacing chemicals with agroecology increases Cambodian farmers’ income by four-folds

Despite the bans, restrictions and withdrawals of highly hazardous pesticides over the past few decades in Asia, many workers are still continuously being exposed to highly hazardous pesticides. A recent report has highlighted the sad plight of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand. Working in farms that extensively use chemical pesticides, they are not given health-screening guidelines, or language training to understand the Thai warnings on pesticide containers. Most (80%) of them do not wear proper protective clothing.

Backpack sprayers are doubly at risk since they get in contact with the easily absorbed fine vapors. A high 75% of the workers have abnormal blood cholinesterase levels. Indicative of organophosphate pesticide poisoning, their symptoms include dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

In recent years, land conversions have further forced farmers to work as laborers and as pesticide sprayers in Cambodia. A 2015 study by the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community shows that at least 200,000 farmers are displaced and dispossessed due to massive conversions and deforestation brought about by rapid agro-industrial development and mining.

Agroecology-based agriculture which is free from pesticides has been documented to offer better option for labor, rural farming communities, and the consumers. Although laborious and may take time, conversion to chemical-free farming must be initiated for it brings about tremendous benefits.

Agroecology frees us from the many consequences of pesticide use such as cancer, endocrine disruption, mental retardation, and organ failures among others. It frees households from the burden of having illnesses that drain not only finances but also emotions as one is left to bear the suffering of having to endure watching loved ones slowly deteriorate. On a larger scale, it frees governments from the “cost of inaction” that may reach billions of dollars.

A recent study by  Scholz  (2016) on the impact of Centre d’Etude et de Développement Agricole Cambodgien’s (CEDAC) interventions found that organic farmers that are part of its network have on average 4.8 times more income compared to non-CEDAC farmers. CEDAC’s organic farming bundle primarily aimed to address rural poverty, includes awareness building on the hazards of pesticides; hands-on training on organic farming and Participatory Guarantee System; and linkage-building with local and international markets.

CEDAC is one of the Pesticide Action Network in the Asia-Pacific’s (PANAP) partner organizations. It’s innovative approach started with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in 1999, which facilitated farmer trainings on organic and good agricultural practices and helped build farmer knowledge. With its success, the SRI was mainstreamed in the Cambodian government’s strategic development plans. CEDAC’s target group consists of subsistence growers who are able to produce a minimum surplus of 500 kg jasmine rice per producer group. As of now, CEDAC is in 22 out of the 25 Cambodian provinces.

One of the farmers who benefited from CEDAC’s and PANAP’s activities is 38-year old Nhem Sovanry who has 1.5 hectares of rice fields and 800 square meters of home garden. Sovanry is very happy to see farmers practice what they have learned, and see how it contributes to their own livelihoods.

“If farmers in Cambodia practice organic farming, families will be self-sufficient just like us. Farmers should understand the basic principles of farming: one has to have a pond (or water source), paddy field, home garden, and animals such as chickens or cows. With these four elements, including hard work, one can be a successful and self-sufficient farmer,” she said.

CEDAC has made organic farming economical by using group certification. Group certification is where farmer groups implement an internal control system and are certified collectively by a third-party certification body. Certified organic rice fetches a premium price and is thus, more profitable to farmers.

“At first, it was difficult to take care of the crops and collect the fertilizers. But the value of the vegetables has grown and the selling price has increased,” said Sovanry happily.

Sovanry and other farmers are part of the independent national farmers’ association network known as the Farmer and Nature Net. This network is comprised of 1,249 village-based farmer associations across 12 provinces in Cambodia that supply products to local farmers’ markets. Stories of Sovanry and 25 women who are taking the lead in agroecology are featured in Stories from the Field.

CEDAC also organized the women vegetable farmers of Kampong Speu province. Through sustainable organic farming, members of the Women Organic Vegetable Producer Group now enjoy better living standards.

(Watch the video of Sovanry and other famers here.)

Ten CEDAC shops have been formed in Phnom Penh as a result of pioneering efforts to link small food producers to the wider market. These shops aim to ensure that safe food is supplied to Cambodian consumers and to improve locally produced food.

Overall, the Cambodian experience shows that organic farming must be coupled with interventions similar to what CEDAC has adopted.  Through the CEDAC approach of replacing chemicals with agroecology and contract farming, we may finally achieve a pesticide-free world.

 

References

Kijewki L. 2017. Pesticides pose risk to workers, research finds. http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/pesticides-pose-risk-workers-research-finds

Scholz B. 2016. The economics of organic farming: A comparative analysis in Takeo, Cambodia. A Master’s Thesis submitted to Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany.  85pp

PANAP. 2017. Stories from the Field. Penang, Malaysia. http://library.ipamglobal.org/jspui/bitstream/ipamlibrary/871/1/Stories-from-the-field.pdf

PANAP 2017. Women Organic Vegetable Producer Group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6eQtd3ve10

 

 

International Women’s Day: Inspiring stories of women vs. pesticides

Press Release

“Farmers are unable or unwilling to focus on environmental or health issues so long as they are experiencing poverty. They are less willing to experiment, because they are afraid of risking yield,” said woman farmer Khonsawan from Nongno Village in Laos.

But the story of Khonsawan and other women farmers also show that change in behaviour can be inspired even by just one positive experience or example that farmers can witness for themselves.

As techniques and environmental health improve, so does the quality and quantity of their produce. These stories show that the advance of ecological agriculture practices are always accompanied with increase in income, as women begin to enjoy savings from not buying chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Khonsawan’s story and of other women farmers are compiled in the booklet “Stories from the field: Women working towards a non-toxic environment”. This booklet contains a collection of stories of 25 women from five countries who are involved in an inspiring, ongoing campaign to eliminate use of chemical pesticides and promote agroecology in the Mekong Region. It was launched today by the Towards a Non-Toxic Southeast Asia programme as it joins the commemoration of the International Women’s Day.

Towards a Non-Toxic Southeast Asia programme aims to reduce health and environmental risks from chemicals by monitoring, regulating and managing agricultural, industrial and consumer chemicals. It is an initiative of the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), and The Field Alliance (TFA).

The impact of the programme and experiences of the partners are captured and summarized in 25 stories contained in the booklet. “The booklet provides positive examples that women and men, communities and organizations across the region can learn from, be inspired by and hopefully develop further” – Jenny Ronngren, Adviser/ Programme manager of International Unit, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

On average, women in Asia represent 40 to 50% of the world’s agricultural labour force. Their role in food production exposes them to pesticides. “Women are exposed as pesticide applicator and in other ways, including while working in the sprayed fields, during cleaning the spray tanks or when laundering clothes used during pesticide application. Unfortunately, women farmers and workers are discriminated and often do not have equal access to resources, education, training or information.” – Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN Asia Pacific.

This inequality has created gaps on how women understand the impact of pesticides on their health and their communities’ health as well as on the environment. They are also rarely involved in training and lack information on pesticide risk reduction initiatives or on safer pest management methods that includes ecological agriculture.

Thus, the programme throughout its implementation has introduced various tools and interventions consisting of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) – Integrated Pest Management (IPM)/Pesticide Risk Reduction (PRR) trainings, Community-based Pesticide Action Monitoring (CPAM), Rural Ecology and Agricultural Livelihoods (REAL) programs, policy advocacy, research and outreach, among others to actively address this gender gap.

The equal and meaningful participation of women in all activities conducted by partner organisations was ensured. This is in recognition of women’s marginalisation and double burden, made even more acute by the effects of uncontrolled use of toxic chemicals on their livelihood, health, environment, family and community.

It also fuelled most of their drive to inform other community members, including their husbands, on the harmful effects of pesticides. Significantly, these stories resonate with how pesticides use is most successfully reduced or even eliminated when accompanied with trainings and educational campaigns that introduce ecological agriculture practices, such as Farmer Field Schools-IPM and System of Rice Intensification. – Johannes Ketelaar, Chief Technical Advisor, FAO Regional Pesticide Risk Reduction Programme, FAO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific

Furthermore, organic produce are able to fetch higher prices at the market. In Peak District, Laos, SAEDA (Sustainable Agriculture & Environment Development Association) held trainings that led to the creation of the Organic Farmers Association, which now helps women market their produce. Additionally, the initiative contributed to increased consumer awareness and support for agro-biodiversity.

“Women farmers found most useful trainings that teach them how to make botanical pesticides and natural fertilizers, do composting, crop rotation, red-worm farming, and other techniques that reduce, if not totally rid them of dependence on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In transitioning from chemical-intensive to IPM or even organic production, farmers in the beginning tended to be discouraged by the results. But as the women practiced and improved upon these techniques, the results only became better and more impressive, attracting the interest of more members of the community” Marut Jatiket, Director of The Field Alliance.

Government or institutional support is seen as crucial by women farmers, especially in the areas of access to water supply and market access for organic produce. Many women have also recognised that in order for alternative pest management to be successful and viable, it has to be applied in large-scale.

As Nguyet from the Hai Phu Commune in Vietnam said, “If I do not apply pesticides for my field while all other neighbours’ fields are sprayed with pesticides, there is no use at all.”

Still, even with the lack of strong government or institutional support, women who have been trained are determined to spread the knowledge and sustain initiatives through community organisations.

“It is very important to become a practitioner yourself, because authority and the power to persuade can only come from actually doing what one preaches,” said Tran Thi Len from the Hai Son Commune in Vietnam.

They gain empowerment not just among their community but also inside their homes. Not a few women told of how their husbands were initially obstructive of their newfound leadership roles, but eventually became highly supportive, especially when their health improved and their family income increased.

On the whole, these stories reflect the happier, healthier, and more enriching lives women lead once unshackled from dependence on pesticides and empowered with knowledge, experience and options with regards to managing their lands and livelihoods. They show the great ability of women in mobilising their families and communities towards a toxic-free environment. ###

Stories from the Field can be downloaded here: http://panap.net/2016/10/stories-field-women-working-towards-non-toxic-environment/

 

For more information please contact:-

Jenny Ronngren (KemI) – Jenny.Ronngren@kemi.se

Johannes Ketelaar (FAO Asia Pacific) – Johannes.Ketelaar@fao.org

Deeppa Ravindran (PANAP) – deeppa.ravindran@panap.net

Marut Jatiket (TFA) – thaied.found@gmail.com

Agroecology in Action: The Women of Kampong Speu, Cambodia

In the villages of Samrong Tong, district of Kampong Speu province, Cambodia, women vegetable farmers are at the forefront of promoting agroecology. In this short documentary, watch how the Women Organic Vegetable Producer Group, with the support of the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), are able to improve their health and livelihood through sustainable organic farming.

Defend food sovereignty! Strengthen community resilience amid climate crisis!

From 1-16 October, 34 organisations of farmers, rural women and advocacy groups from 17 countries across the globe have responded to the most urgent crises faced by small-scale farmers and food producers, especially in poor countries- climate change, hunger, food insecurity, and land grabbing through PAN Asia Pacific’s “16 Days of Global Action on Land and Resources”.