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[AHRC Forwarded Statement] ASIA: Rural and Indigenous Women Claim our Right to Food!

You claim that although the food crisis we suffered globally in 2008 is only a cyclical phase, the serious structural problems remain. The structural problems affect much more people in developing countries with less bargaining power in front of the powerful G8 countries, and rural and indigenous women among the most marginalised.

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following statement from Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-029-2009
April 21, 2009

A Statement from Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

ASIA: Rural and Indigenous Women Claim our Right to Food!

You claim that although the food crisis we suffered globally in 2008 is only a cyclical phase, the serious structural problems remain. The structural problems affect much more people in developing countries with less bargaining power in front of the powerful G8 countries, and rural and indigenous women among the most marginalised.

In the post-colonial, post-war era, Green Revolution, a chemically driven agricultural production system, was pushed in the vast agrarian land of the developing world, by agencies such as International Monetary Fund-World Bank (IMF-WB), and brought about a dramatic change in agricultural production. It made farmers dependent on external inputs such as high yielding variety of seeds, chemical fertilisers, toxic pesticides and modern machinery, which benefited the profit-oriented global agro-business corporation but drove peasants to further impoverishment.

In the age of globalisation, the IMF-WB through structural adjustment programmes have pressured our governments to drastically reduce subsidies in agricultural production, which have resulted in millions of small farmers world wide to get into a vicious cycle of debt, poverty, hunger and for many suicide has been the final escape from their misery.

The WTO, through agreements such as the Agreement on Agriculture, has compelled agricultural countries to import a minimum volume of exportable agricultural products from other countries irrespective of the fact that they are self -sufficient or not. This situation imposes governments to be importing grains and other agricultural products therefore leading to the bankruptcy of local agricultural production. Trade liberalisation has allowed monopolistic transnational corporations (TNCs) to gain tremendous power to control the trade and marketing of essential staples such as rice and wheat and other agricultural products of farmers.

Before, many developing countries were either net food exporters, or at least were nearly food self-sufficient. India, once a wheat exporting country was forced to become the largest wheat importer. The Philippines, which for a time produced enough rice to feed its population, is now the world's largest importer of rice. A crucial factor related to food is land. Most farmers in developing countries do not own the land they till. But instead of providing land to the landless, under the pressure of WTO, IMF- WB agreements, the governments and ruling elites in the countries have facilitated land-grabbing, monopoly and re-concentration of land to big land owners including government and corporations.

Rural and indigenous women are disproportionately affected by the food crisis because they are most confronted with impoverishment, illiteracy, high health risks, inadequate access to productive resources and market, because of the persistent patriarchal and feudal system governing rural areas. Furthermore, structural adjustment programmes designed by the IMF-WB, which call for cuts in government spending and for privatisation of state owned enterprises and services, often make the cuts on various social services, essential in the women’s performance of their productive and reproductive roles. The disproportionate impact on indigenous women is further intensified by the imposition of extractive industries like mining, commercial logging and plantations on their lands in the name of greater profits for corporations and national development for governments at the expense of the survival of indigenous women and their communities.

Women’s roles and much of women’s work are not valued within the current neoliberal economic system which places primary value on paid labour. While rural and indigenous women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture and fishing, farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence, they have more difficulty than men in gaining access to resources such as land and credit and productivity enhancing inputs and services in societies and communities. Women in the agricultural sector and fishery have also been adversely affected by the promotion of export-oriented economic policies, trade liberalisation and TNCs’ activities in agriculture. Rural and indigenous women in developing countries continue to struggle with multiple work responsibilities in food crop production, family agricultural activities, household and non market work.

Despite those devastating effects of the neoliberal globalisation policies on the lives of farmers, particularly women farmers, the direction of the measures to tackle the world food emergency proposed by G8 countries and Food and Agriculture Organisation is to strengthen the current global policy of privatisation, deregulation and trade liberalisation. Implementing the second Green Revolution in Africa would only cause another cycle of food crisis and exacerbate the situation faced by the peasants. The measures must be based on human rights of the poorest and must address the structural problems which have been causing the world food crisis. The G8 countries must learn from their past and ongoing failures to eliminate poverty and commit to achieving the Millenium Development Goals and implementing the principles of Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness through sincere dialogue with developing countries and peoples who have shouldered the result of their failure.

Agriculture is the source of women farmers’ lives and survival. Food is not a commodity of trade and speculation for profit of the developed countries. The right to food is not just supply of adequate and nutritious food. We, rural and indigenous women demand our RIGHT as food producers to produce food and have access to productive resources such as land, water, capital, technology; RIGHT to seeds preserved and handed down over the generations; RIGHT to protect and develop our land, natural resource and environment, and diversity in rural and indigenous culture and ecology.


Rural and Indigenous Women Task Force
Women and Environment Task Force
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

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