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.

Global Management of Chemicals Beyond 2020

by Meriel Watts, PhD, PAN Asia Pacific

Feb 19th 2017

When nearly 400 delegates met in Brasilia recently to discuss how to manage chemicals beyond 2020, there was a surprising degree of accord that the current multi-stakeholder approach should be preserved in whatever arrangement is arrived at. That means NGOs like PAN would continue to participate in the process as equal partners.

Meriel Watts, PhD, PAN Asia Pacific

Why Beyond 2020? Because the current UN Environment-based Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) expires in 2020. It was supposed to have met its target of sound chemicals management by 2020. Obviously it has not, or pesticide poisoning would not still be occurring.

Despite the accord on the multi-stakeholder approach, there was not a similar accord on whether or not the new approach should be voluntary or legally binding. Considerable interest was shown in a paper recently released by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which discussed amongst other things the idea of an overarching global convention on chemicals management that would scoop together all the existing conventions under one convention. One of its author’s, Sabaa Khan, was at the meeting and such was the interest in the proposal the African Region asked for a special session with her and emerged from it supporting a legally binding convention. NGOs, Africa and others asked the secretariat to prepare a paper on governance options for the next meeting in the series that lead up to the decision in 2020 on what to do next.

Although individual chemical issues where not on the agenda, PAN Asia Pacific did succeed in raising the failure of SAICM to deal with the problem of Highly Hazardous Pesticide (HHPs), especially their impact on children and human rights.

A number of countries echoed our concern, referring to problems they were having with pesticides – no doubt this support was in part because, unusually, officials from health ministries where present to compliment the usual environment ministries – thanks to the World Health Organisation (WHO). CropLife’s comment that there was no need for any extra tools to manage HHPs (although they “didn’t deny the issue is serious”) so incensed the delegate from South Africa that she quotably stated: “HHPs should not even be in the bucket in the first place”. We agree!

PAN and IPEN also drew attention to need to address the special vulnerability of women to chemicals and succeeded, with the support of other delegates, in getting the secretariat to provide a discussion paper on this for the next meeting, in March 2018.

The whole context for chemicals management beyond 2020 will be embedded in the AGENDA 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, many of which strongly reflect the need for work on HHPs and their replacement with agroecology. Sustainable development cannot succeed whilst the current model of chemical intensive farming continues to dominate.

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”.

16 Days of Global Action on Land and Resources mobilise farmers and small food producers, rural women, fisherfolk, agri workers, advocates across the globe

With the theme “Defend Food Sovereignty! Strengthen Community Resilience amid Climate Crisis,” the 16 days of global action on land and resources successfully reached out to more than 380,000 people across the globe, with more than 200 partners and network groups in 18 countries in Asia, Pacific, Africa and Latin America. (click here to see photos of the activities)

Same goals, diverse strategies

Through a 16-day series of collective actions under PANAP’s Save Our Rice Campaign: Save Our Rice Campaign: Strengthening Rice Biodiversity –Based Ecological Agriculture (BEA), Safe Food and Community Resilience in the Face of Climate Change, the globally-coordinated campaign which kicked-off on September 30, ran from October 1-16, 2016 and culminated on Rural Women’s Day (15 Oct) and World Food(less) Day (16 Oct). Its aims were: (1) To raise awareness to the public on the impact of food and climate crises, particularly highlighting specific impacts of land and resource grabbing to farming communities and movements; (2)To generate solidarity in the struggle to defend collective rights to land and resources and mobilise people to be involved in the people’s resistance against corporate agriculture, land grabbing and all forms of repression; (3) To gather broader support and promote people’s initiatives, particularly of small food producers and farming communities on food sovereignty and agroecology as an alternative to corporate agriculture and (4) To forward farmers’ and rural women’s agenda and demands for food sovereignty at the national and global platforms.

The 16 Days of Global Action on Land and Resources saw the diverse forms of collective action by the partner groups- from the forums, discussions, dialogues with government agencies and workshops to militant mobilisations, rallies and pickets to creative forms such as poster designs, handicrafts and theatre performances.

In Southeast Asia, CEDAC and Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (YOF) facilitated a youth exchange programme attended by rural youth from Cambodia, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Myanmar. The programme included on the job training on organic farming and experience sharing. CEDAC also organised farmers’ markets in 5 provinces which highlight the important role of agroecology in providing healthy food, sustainable agriculture and environment. The group also organised a radio talk show tackling climate change adaptation of women farmers which reached out at least 10,000 listeners. In Malaysia, a forum on land and food sovereignty was facilitated by North-South Initiatives among rural youth and indigenous people. In China, ECO-WOMEN collected climate-friendly farming technologies and methods aimed at raising people’s awareness and encourage them to practice these methods. ECO-WOMEN also designed and exhibited in three villages, five posters portraying different climate-friendly farming technologies. Sustainable Development Foundation or SDF based in Thailand, campaigned against ocean grabbing and for food security. A documentary showcasing communities’ resistance against ocean and resources grabbing was produced. In the Philippines, educational exchanges and immersions among peasants and students were conducted by National Network of Agrarian Reforms Advocates-Youth (NNARA-Youth) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines). Sinagbayan staged in different locations an original theatre production about sugar cane workers’ plights in Southern Philippines while AMIHAN (National Federation of Rural Women) mobilised rural women and advocates through several activities including a rally in commemoration of Rural Women’s Day (RWD). In Indonesia, Serikat Perempuan Indonesia (SERUNI) facilitated a cultural campaign and discussion on food sovereignty while Gita Pertiwi Ecological Studies Programme conducted public campaign on the impact of pesticides on food, collectively harvested rice seeds, utilised well-known games in showcasing climate change, food sovereignty and pesticides impacts on food. Farmers group AGRA conducted several activities for the RWD and World Hunger Day such as discussions, agrarian camps and mobilizations. In Vietnam, Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) organized farmers’ markets to introduce agroecology products of women pioneer groups while Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) conducted workshops on agroecological livelihood.

In South Asia, discussions, trainings, forums, public meetings and rallies were organized. In Pakistan, KHOJ Society for People’s Education gathered rural women to discuss and advance advocacy on their rights. Roots for Equity on the other hand, organized women’s assembly, press conferences and rallies for RWD and World Hunger Day. In India, Thanal conducted a workshop on ‘Food security and the Changing Climate.’ Farming and food sovereignty, Ecological Agriculture, Biodiversity and food security, Farming and water resources, changes in food habit over the past decades, were the topics addressed in the workshop. The group also conducted awareness-raising activity tackling climate change and agriculture vulnerability, biodiversity, food sovereignty, agroecology and land as a productive resource. Youth participants created their own advocacy posters after the activity. NISARGA focused on awareness-building on Bio diversity Based Ecological Agriculture and  impact of  climate change on the lives of rural communities with special focus on agriculture workers, Dalits,  women & marginal farmers. Their activities reaching out to 150,000 population included simultaneous village meetings in six mandals (administrative division), school meetings and rallies. On the other hand, KUDUMBAM organised “Documenting climate resilient technologies involving village youth.” It was a programme for rural university students at Kolunji Ecological farm and training center, Odugampatti, Pudukottai district of  Tamil Nadu.  The programme organized for rural university students and lead farmers from 15 villages of six panchayats (village councils). Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum (TNWF) conducted village level campaigns utilising public meeting, seminar and workshop, and mobilised people for the World Foodless Day and Rural Women’s Day rallies. Their campaign tackled issues of land grabbing, protection of land and resources and food sovereignty. They were able to reach out to more than 10,000 people. In Bangladesh, SHISUK gathered rural women and farmers in different venues to highlight the calls of the 16 Days of Global Action on Land and Resources.  BARCIK, on the other hand, organised an event recognising farmers and farmers leaders “for their tireless effort in food production and keeping nation’s development wheel moving forward.” In the said program, farmers from different agro-ecological zones depicted their challenges in food production. Apart from these, farming experience, and initiatives were shared and described on how they produce despite all adversities. In Sri Lanka, Savisthri (Women in Development Alternatives) Movement held a weekly fair of organic food production aimed at highlighting food security and food sovereignty while Vikalpani National Women’s Federation also conducted activities forwarding the calls of the campaign.

Partner groups in Central Asia designed various artistic and popular campaign activities. In Kyrgyztan, Alga mobilised rural women, farmers and professionals in eight Raions (Districts) reaching out to 1,300 individuals. Meetings, a song festival and handicraft-making depicting issues of rural women were organised. In Mongolia, CHRD organised meetings in universities on the occasion of World Foodless Day and Rural Women’s Day for awareness-raising among students on impacts of pesticide and climate change and Organised a press conference on the World Foodless Day and Rural Women’s Day. The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty-Mongolia chapter organised gatherings to highlight call for food justice.

In the Pacific, femLINKpacific Media Initiatives for Women of Fiji organised rural women’s meeting in District level and led a national consultation of rural women and civil society advocating for women’s participation in disaster response planning and management. For the said activities, femLINKpacific was able to reach out to 10058 individuals.

In Africa, PAN-Ethiopia and PAN-Africa were the partner organisations. In Ethiopia, PAN Nexus continued its facilitation of dialogue between women farmer representatives and local government agriculture officials with the aim of assessing the change after last year’s presentation of women farmers’ problems and demands. In Senegal, Africa, PAN Africa organized a meeting to inform women’s farmers about agroecology, alternatives on pesticides and climate crisis and produced radio programs that reached out to 120,000 individuals. FAHAMU in Kenya also participated.

In Latin America, Instituto Politécnico Tomás Katari (IPTK) and PCFS in Bolivia conducted a workshop with kids, teachers and parents’ about the Right to Food, Food Injustice, Roots of Hunger and Genetically Modified Organisms. IPTK and PCFS also launched some of the educational materials they produced.

Regional group People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) on the other hand, led Representatives from social movements in Senegal on a workshop on Food Injustice and Repression who all agreed to set up a coalition on food sovereignty. The group also led the global day of action against food injustice and repression on 12 October.

Narratives from the ground: collective action impacts communities

With the diverse activities and massive outreach, it is therefore expected that the 16 days of global action has impacted the people from the grounds.

In Southeast Asia, very noteworthy are those from Cambodia, China and Vietnam.

In Cambodia, the different activities conducted by CEDAC has mostly highlighted the important role that rural women play as food producers. The farmers’ markets and agroecology workshops for instance, reaffirmed the commitment of women farmers to agroecology such as Ms. Mi Thim from Kampong Chhnang. She said, “Women farmers are very patient and have high commitment to do organic farming as it is not as easy as conventional practice. But we are happy in doing it as it makes us living in a healthy environment, earning good income and having nutritious foods.”  For ECO-WOMEN of China, the impact of the 16 Days of Global Action is that key women leaders realised that climate-friendly, traditional agriculture techniques and methods can reduce farmland soil erosion, protect farmland ecological environment, and obtain ecological and economic benefits.

In Vietnam, CGFED’s farmers market has brought together female farmers’ groups of the three communes of Hai Son, Hai Cuong and Hai Xuan. The groups were able to share experiences and ideas and the way they produce safe and healthy food. Furthermore, through the farmers market, the farmers from the said communes were able to gain the attention and support of local authorities in the promotion of agroecology and elimination of hazardous pesticides in their farms.

In South Asia, empowerment of marginalised communities was highlighted. In India for instance, the activities organised by NISARGA boosted the confidence of the communities on their strength to assert their rights, while the youth displayed interest to continue the campaign against drought and climate change. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum, through the different strategies, was able to convince the government to temporarily halt their order to confiscate 1300 acres of land that were given to 120 landless Dalit farmers.

In Central Asia, it is important to note the impact of the campaign to the women in Kyrgyztan. Through the different creative activities facilitated by Alga, rural women reaffirm their role as empowered members of the society. They claim their part in the fight against climate change: “We, rural women, first persons to fight against climate change, to survive climate crises. We are the basis for development. That’s why we want policymakers to listen to us!”

In the Pacific, women power was the order of the day, as well. Fiji women say that, through the different consultations facilitated by femLINKpacific, they have learned to act upon policies, conventions and issues at hand. For instance, Mareta, a representative of a vendors association says, “these opportunities have given me a lot of courage and educated me to stand and speak up for myself…” while Vani Tuvuki of Koronubu Resettlement in Ba stated that they have gone through a lot of awareness and now know “the importance of women in the community.”

In Africa, women leaders were capacitated further. In Ethiopia, women cotton farmers who have been working with PAN-Ethiopia in reducing pesticides use formed associations. PAN-Ethiopia continuously facilitates capacity-building training and discussions that help the women farmers in their incomes. In Senegal, the campaign has been instrumental in making communities aware of the intertwining issues of pesticides use, climate change, the promotion of food sovereignty and agroecology.

Effective platform for agroecology advocacy

The 16 Days of Global Action on Land and Resources also gathered support signatures for the International Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. At least four thousand signatures were gathered by the partners while 21 groups signed up on the online petition. PANAP executive director Sarojeni Rengam hosted an event at the tribunal’s ‘Peoples Assembly’ to share findings from the newly released Glyphosate Monograph, a “state of the science” review presenting a large body of research documenting the adverse human health and environmental impacts of glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides.

The 16 Days campaign also launched “Stories from the field: women working towards a non-toxic environment,” a 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.

The momentum garnered by the 1st 16 Days of Global Action in 2015 definitely helped build this year’s success. With how far and wide it has reached out to this year, the 16 Days of Global Action proves to be an effective platform and should continue to be, if not more so, for the next years as the need to strengthen the communities’ fights will become stronger. ###

 

In time for International Working Women’s Day 2016: Stories of 500 Rural Women Leaders Launched

Press Release

08 March 2016

Women’s stories assert rights to land and resources

“We’ve learned that mining companies are after the rich minerals and biodiversity found in our communities. As a result, our ancestral domain is being grabbed and encroached by greedy businessmen and foreign companies…We still have the same problems my parents faced three decades ago. And we confront these problems like they did:  we fight!”

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The story of Gertrudes Layal, a Lumad leader from Mindanao, Philippines finds resonance with other women’s stories from other countries in Asia, particularly Philippines and Malaysia. These women are at the forefront of the battle against land grabbing by their states, usually for transnational corporations’ interests in mining, agricultural plantations and energy. Their stories are part of a collection of 500 rural women leaders’ stories being launched online today by PAN Asia Pacific and its partner organisations, in time for International Working Women’s Day 2016.

With the theme “500 Rural Women Leaders:  Asserting Rights to Land and Resources”, the collection features the life, struggles and triumphs of current rural women leaders. Their stories speak of a wide range of issues facing rural women today, such as poverty, land grabbing, landlessness, lack of jobs and livelihoods, lack of basic social services, climate change, gender discrimination and violence and caste discrimination and violence, to name a few.

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But rural women are fighting back, at the forefront of their communities and side-by-side with men.  The stories narrate how the women organize themselves into groups, associations or join existing women’s groups to advance common concerns and cause; how they creatively raise awareness through education, trainings and mass campaigns; how they collectively take action through petitions, dialogues, demonstrations and strikes; and how they find viable alternatives in the midst of long-drawn struggles, such as ecological farming against use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, or land occupation and collective farming against landlessness and land grabbing by the state.

As Aravalli, a Dalit widow from Ananthapuram, Andra Pradesh, India narrates in her story:“On 1st November, the eve of Andhra Formation Day when the government is celebrating, we collectively occupied the land and planted Ragi (finger millet).  When the landlord came with police and revenue officer, I told them that this land belongs to all of us because we are poor and eligible to cultivate the land…The landlord and police held back as we already have the caveat from the court. Although the case is still on-going, land is in our hands.”

Aravalli and Gertrudes’ stories and the rest of the women’s narratives represent 18 countries from 29 partner groups in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka); Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam), East Asia (China), Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan), Pacific (Fiji), and Africa (Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia).

The collection of stories come under the PAN Asia Pacific campaign “No Land, No Life” and is a continuation of the 16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women, both launched last year. It aims to document and highlight the leadership and importance of rural women, draw lessons from their failures and victories, and inspire others especially the new generation of women, with the collective strength and leadership of rural women.

To read the stories, click the link: http://www.panap.net/campaigns/women-assert-our-rights/500-rural-women-leaders

Reference:  Marjo Busto, PAN Asia Pacific, ARWC Secretariat, marjo.busto@panap.net

Fight Back Imperialist Globalisation, Militarism and Religious Fundamentalism!

Statement of the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition for the International Working Women’s Day

08 March 2016

As we celebrate International Working Women’s Day today, we also mourn the death 5 days ago of Berta Caceres: a Lenca woman leader and environmental activist murdered for the defense of her people and their lands in Honduras. Her life and struggle mirrors that of women around the globe, who suffer but fight back against imperialist globalisation and militarism.

After three decades of neo-liberal globalisation, and as its economic and social crisis deepens, women all over the world face intensified exploitation, oppression, multiple forms of discrimination and violence. Women and families coming from underdeveloped countries suffer worse conditions, as the burden of the imperialist crisis is shifted to their countries.

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Neo-liberal globalisation intensifies inequalities of wealth, power and resources between countries, between rich and poor, and between men and women. It further escalates land, water and resource grabbing in the imperialist drive for profit and geo-political control, concentrated in the hands of big transnational and local corporations and landlords, for dams, mining, agricultural plantations and aquacultures. These displace peasant women, indigenous women, fisherfolk women and their families, as well as other rural sectors sourcing their livelihoods from the land and waters. Peasant and indigenous women’s role as food producers and seed keepers are drastically eroded, putting food security and safety at risk and farmers at the mercy of patented and genetically modified seeds.

Mining displaces indigenous women and entire farming communities from their homes, livelihoods, and native cultures. Armies, police and mining company goons inflict gross human rights abuses to the displaced population as well as to those resisting mining. This plunder of natural resources has also resulted to climate change and catastrophic disasters. Rural women bear the brunt of climate change and disasters, as they are in charge of food production, water supply and maintaining families’ homes. Environmental and natural disasters place women and children most vulnerable to health risks, while placing women at higher risks of harm and even death when disasters strike.

Within the framework of neo-liberal economic agenda, the US-led TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement) will deepen imperialist economic control of poor and underdeveloped countries in the region as it further opens up land and resources to imperialist plunder. For toiling women of Asia, this will mean further economic oppression.

When imperialist interests are at stake, militarism in the form of wars of aggression and interventions are not far behind. The TPPA is partnered with the “US pivot to Asia” which will strengthen US economic, military and political control in the Asia Pacific as well as contain China as a threat to US power in the region. This will bring about heightened political repression in countries like the Philippines where US-puppet regimes are installed and are eager to surrender national sovereignty. For women activists, movements and human rights defenders in the region, this spells heightened human rights violations and political repression.

Religious fundamentalism is on the rise in the past years, especially in South Asian countries like India. Generated and fanned by the protracted and worsening crisis of imperialism, religious bigotry with the support of imperialist forces, state and non-state actors, have intensified rural women’s invisibility, further restricted women’s civil and political rights, legitimated violence against women, revived religious sanctioned prostitution, perpetuated discrimination and denied women’s inherent right to control their lives, bodies, sexuality and resources. Fundamentalisms and imperialist globalisation processes interact with caste discrimination denying Dalit women the right to life, land, and equal status with men.

Rural women in Asia condemn and resist land and resource grabbing, militarism and fundamentalism and is in solidarity with the women of the world resisting imperialist globalisation.

We reaffirm our demand and persevere in the struggle for genuine agrarian and aquatic reforms and rural women’s ownership and access to land, waters and other resources; food sovereignty and ecological biodiversity based agriculture; the right to self-determination; the right to fair living wages, job security, freedom of association and our demand for development justice.

We reaffirm our demand and resolutely struggle for an end to all state-led, state-supported wars; justice for all human rights defenders and affected communities; the prioritization of basic social services over military budgets; the repeal of repressive laws and an end to extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

We reaffirm our demand and determinedly struggle for an end to the caste system and untouchability practices; our inherent right to life with dignity; our sexual and reproductive health and rights; and our right to political representation at all policy levels to represent different religions, ethnic groups and marginalised sectors.

Rural women in Asia are more resolute and more militant in organising, educating and mobilising its ranks, and links its struggles and movements with the peoples’ movements in different countries and the world anti-imperialist movement.

We call on the young generation of rural women to link arms with us and the toiling women all over the world, to collectively march towards our liberation.

Rights, Empowerment and Liberation!

Women of the world unite! Fight back imperialist globalisation, militarism and fundamentalism!

Reference: Sarojeni Rengam and Marjo Busto, Secretariat, arwc-secretariat@asianruralwomen.net

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*The ARWC is facilitated by the Steering Committee (SC) body composed of 10 member groups of national formations/alliances and regional organisations working on rural women’s issues. The SC members include national alliances: Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum (TNWF) and Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) in India; Tenaganita in Malaysia; Human Development Organization (HDO) in Sri Lanka; INNABUYOG and GABRIELA National Alliance of Women’s Organization in the Philippines; and the All Nepal Women’s Alliance (ANWA) in Nepal. Regional networks include Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW), and Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP).

Our Stories, One Journey

The Women’s Travelling Journal: Empowering Rural Women in Asia on Food Sovereignty

Watch the video as rural women from 11 countries share their stories in a journal that travelled from one country to another. It is a narration of daily life and struggles of rural women on land, food and agriculture. Be inspired to hear their stories of resistance, resilience and change, all testament to women’s leadership and collective action.

For more information about the Women’s Travelling Journal, visit http://travellingjournal.asianruralwomen.net/

 

For Land and Life: 16 Days of Global Action

Today, rural women from 20 countries across the globe are taking a strong and united stand against the unprecedented scale of land and resource grabbing in the world. For the next 16 days, in what we call the 16 Days of Global Action, rural women under the slogan “No Land, No Life!” will rise to educate, mobilise and engage their communities, schools, governments, and the general public. Through their collective power and creativity, rural women’s groups will assert the need for land to the landless, food sovereignty, biodiverse ecological agriculture, reclamation of traditional seeds and knowledge, and women’s rights.

Started in 29th March this year at the declaration of the Day of the Landless by PANAP, ARWC (Asian Rural Women’s Coalition), APC (Asian Peasants’ Coalition) and partner groups, the campaign No Land, No Life: March for Life! Fight for Rights, Land and Resources! is a response to the deeply felt effects of intensified land and resource grabbing on small-scale farmers and food producers, including women. After the world food crisis seven years ago, the monopoly control of landlords and big corporations over huge tracts of land has tightened more than ever through the neoliberal restructuring of agriculture. Genuine land reform remains an unrealised dream for the millions of farmers who toil under increasingly exploitative and hazardous conditions, while losing control over food production. Globally, food production—which depends on the ownership of land and resources—has become alarmingly unsustainable, as land and resources are utilised by a handful of individuals or corporations only as a means to achieve superprofits.

For rural women, land and resources mean life. Without it, they have no community, they have no livelihood, they have no culture and identity. Without it, they cannot even feed themselves and their own families. Rural women are seed savers and land tillers, community leaders and family managers. They are indispensable to food security and to society. However, they are virtually fighting for survival today, as land, seeds, water and other productive resources are being taken away.

Land and resource grabbing is an unmistakably growing threat. According to the Land Matrix website, around 1,067 land deals covering more than 38.9 million hectares have been concluded worldwide since 2000. Most of the agricultural lands involved are in Africa, Asia and Latin America with investors mainly from the US and Europe.[1] It is a re-colonisation of the world, except that it is being made acceptable by neoliberal policies implemented through various international and national instruments.

It is a re-colonisation that is marked by human rights violations and violence against men and women. Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and even mass evacuations have become more common in rural areas where there are conflicts arising from land and resource grabbing—such as in Southern Philippines, where the indigenous Lumad are being killed for defending their ancestral lands from the encroachment of mostly foreign mining companies. Just last week, social activist Medha Patkar and 10 others were arrested in the Allahabad district in Uttar Pradesh for protesting over the Indian government’s proposed thermal power plant, which has displaced nearly 2,000 farmers from over 500 hectares of land.

The need for rural women to speak up on the threats to their land and life bore life to the 16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women. For the past months, PAN Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) together with about 75 of its network partners, have been raising public awareness on the rural women’s six demands, namely: (1) land to the landless; (2) genuine agrarian reform; (3) biodiverse ecological agriculture; (4) reclaiming of traditional seeds and knowledge; (5) women’s rights; and (6) food sovereignty. These demands are both timely and timeless. They arose from a meticulous process of collecting their experiences, struggles, and aspirations across the region—through a journal that passed from woman to woman, through speak-outs, public assemblies and fora, lobbying, and marches and protest actions.

For it is the same threats of land and resource grabbing that have encouraged rural women to stand up and assert their rights as women and as members of the affected communities. They do so by defending their lands against encroachers, setting up community seed banks and collectively-owned ecological farms, among others.

For the next 16 days, they will thus bring their struggles for land reform and food sovereignty to policymakers, opinion makers, and the general public through various awareness raising activities. An active online campaign utilising social media and using the hashtags #NoLandNoLife #RuralWomenRiseUp will also be launched. All these will culminate with mass actions on October 15, World Rural Women’s Day, and October 16, the World “Foodless” Day.

Through these activities, rural women will call for justice for their sisters and brothers who have fallen victim to countless human rights violations resulting from land and resource grabbing. For it is the everyday life-or-death struggles for land that gave birth and strengthened the resolve of rural women across the globe to fight for their future – one that is intricately intertwined with the future of food production that serves the interest of the great majority instead of the profits of the few. As we are imperiled by fast dwindling resources and poisoned land, the need for rural women and other marginalised rural sectors to fight back remains urgent, necessary and just more than ever.

No Land, No Life!

Women, Assert Our Rights to Land and Resources!

*The 16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women is a global campaign to highlight and support the struggles, leadership and victories of rural women as they continue to assert and reclaim their rights to land and resources. From October 1-16, more than 70 organisations and movements in 20 countries are holding various activities to forward the rural women’s agenda and demands.

Reference:  Marjo Busto, Programme Coordinator, PANAP (marjo.busto@panap.net)

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[1] Data from http://landmatrix.org/en/ as accessed on 29 September 2015

 

16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women Launched

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – At a farmers’ picket-protest against land grabbing in Rodriguez, Rizal, PANAP in coordination with AMIHAN Philippines (National Federation of Peasant Women) launched yesterday the 16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women (#16Days4RuralWMN).

“This is a global campaign to highlight rural women’s struggles, victories and leadership in their assertion to defend food sovereignty and their rights to land and resources. From October 1 to 16, various women’s groups in at least 15 countries will hold simultaneous activities which will culminate on October 15 and 16, International Rural Women’s Day and World Food (Less) Day respectively,” stated Marjo Busto, Coordinator of Women in Agriculture Programme of PANAP.

AMIHAN is a PANAP partner participating in the #16Days4RuralWMN campaign. At the picket-protest, women farmer leaders gave fiery speeches opposing quarrying and land grabbing in the municipality of Rodriguez in the province of Rizal.

Zenaida Soriano, AMIHAN Chairperson, said “We are firmly opposed to big landlords grabbing the lands we have been tilling for generations. We fight against quarrying which only benefits big business but is hazardous to the environment and our health. We demand decent housing, livelihoods, and genuine agrarian reform.” AMIHAN held a nation-wide protest activity yesterday, highlighting farmers’ local issues and demands such as the enactment of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).

A woman farmer leader from Ilocos Norte (province in northern Philippines), Elizabeth Alfiler expressed solidarity with fellow women farmers in the picket-protest: “Like you I am a woman farmer, a wife, a mother, and an activist. To women farmers like us, land is life. Without land we cannot feed our families, we cannot send our children to school. I am one with you in opposing land grabbing and demanding for genuine agrarian reform.” Alfiler is also a journal writer in the Women’s Travelling Journal (WTJ) for Food Sovereignty, a collection of personal stories written by 50 rural women in 6 countries portraying the realities of their struggles on land and other resources. The WTJ was also launched yesterday as part of the campaign #16Days4RuralWMN.

“With this campaign we hope that rural women’s voices are heard by policymakers and governments and that rural women’s demands to stop land and resource grabbing and to uphold women’s rights are met,” emphasized Marjo Busto. “From now until October 1 to 16, we enjoin women’s groups and advocates to support us in this campaign,” she added.

The #16Days4RuralWMN is being done under PANAP’s banner campaign “No Land, No Life!”— a year-long campaign which aims to highlight land and resource grabbing as human rights issues, raise greater awareness on and generate broader support for ongoing local cases of land and resource grabbing at the international level, and coordinate and reinforce the various national campaigns against land and resource grabbing.

Reference: Marjo Busto, Programme Coordinator, PANAP (16daysofaction@panap.net)