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. ###