By Lydia Simas
March 5th, 2014
Women in rural India play a major role in food production. Over 80 percent of women in rural India work in agriculture, from sowing to harvesting crops to collecting and caring for seeds to caring for livestock collecting water. The role of men in agriculture tends to be limited to plowing, applying pesticides, and the business side of farming (like marketing). Although women are the backbone of agricultural production, they are not formally recognized as full-fledged farmers but rather as “farm laborers,” with the tasks they perform put in the category of “unskilled labor.” Without formal recognition as farmers, women don’t have access to credits, compensation and relief benefits offered by the government. And that’s something that the Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective wants to change.
The food crisis of 2008 led to a broad agreement in the agricultural development community that the lack of appropriate investment in agriculture had been a key contributing factor to unstable prices and food insecurity. The crisis coincided with an increase in land grabbing in many parts of the world, but especially in Africa. It is in response to these events that the idea of developing some criteria on agricultural investments came up in international policy and governance arenas.
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of Haiti’s Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) muses, “In the old days, Haitian peasants never sold seeds; seeds were for sharing and exchanging.”
Today the old ways have been pushed aside. Seeds have become big business.
This assault on the basic human right to food commercializes and commodifies one of life’s most essential assets. It jeopardizes human health, threatens the global food supply and steals away the livelihoods of small farmers around the world.
Food sovereignty within several African countries is on the verge of a complete neo-colonial take-over, critics of a recent agricultural initiative being developed by a new G8 alliance warn.
According to a Guardian report published Tuesday, the G8's New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition initiative, supported by the Obama administration, has connected African leaders with major agribusiness corporations in an effort to map out a plan for agricultural development on the African continent in the coming years, which will loosen export and tax laws, award "huge chunks of land" for private investment and change seed laws to benefit international corporations and their GMO products.
The term peasant often conjures up images of medieval serfs out of touch with the ways of the world around them. Such thinking is out of date. Today, peasants proudly and powerfully put forward effective strategies to feed the planet and limit the damages wrought by industrial agriculture. What’s more, they understand the connections between complex trade and economic systems, champion the rights of women, and even stand up for the rights of gay men and lesbians.
These are not your great ancestors’ peasants.
This last year has seen many advances around the globe for communities and activists pushing to regain their fundamental human rights to land, water, and food. As we now approach the end of 2013, we take this opportunity a look back at some of the accomplishments that have marked the year. In spite of the great challenges—and seemingly insurmountable odds—there is much to celebrate. Below are some of many highlights from the last year.
Winning land for formerly landless farmers in Brazil
By Jonathan Leaning
December 3rd, 2013
Miriam Nobre is a Brazilian feminist activist and current coordinator of World March of Women (WMW), an international feminist movement that connects grassroots women to eliminate the root causes of poverty and violence against women. She is also an agronomist, and has completed a master’s program in Latin American Integration at the University of São Paulo (Brazil). Miriam recently received an award from Grassroots International as part of our 30th anniversary celebration in Boston. While in Boston, she talked with Grassroots staffer Jonathan Leaning about her work with the WMW and her activism.
Being a farmer is hard. This is true no matter what policies exist. The work itself is difficult, and making money from farming requires many, many factors to line up just right. Get too much rain, too dry a season, too many bugs and the crop can be destroyed. Prices might be higher, but there’s just not that much to sell. Even a big harvest when everything goes well doesn’t guarantee success. A bumper crop means that there are a whole lot of tomatoes, corn, peaches, or eggplants at the market, so prices go down.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) estimates that 9.8 million people in and around the city of Tacloban in the Visayas region of the Philippines have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda and that at least 660,000 of the affected people were forced from their homes. And authorities fear as many as 10,000 people have died. With the continued threat of landslides and flash floods from additional storms, it is crucial that survivors get access to clean water, food, and shelter as soon as possible.
In Des Moines Iowa last week, in a stunning example of irony three genetic engineers were given the World Food Prize. The award winners are major developers of the now 20-year-old science and technology behind genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a highly contentious and potentially hazardous substitute for age-old agricultural knowledge and technology. By presenting representatives from Monsanto and Syngenta with the World Food Prize, its sponsors are attempting to elevate the status of GMOs and lend credence to the [false] argument that we need GMOs to feed the world’s burgeoning population. The truth is that most of the GMOs grown today are for U.S.