Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

Women play a critical role

Evangeline Gonzales, Progressive Alliance of Fisherfolk in the Philippines (PANGISDA-Women), Philippines

The neoliberal policies of President Duterte’s administration undermine the right to food by pushing for demolition, reclamation, and privatization of land and water. These policies (1) rob us of our right to produce our food, (2) favour importation as the primary approach to meet local food needs, and (3) encourage the monopoly of a few corporations over food production, which gives them the power to dictate prices that in most cases cannot be afforded by the poor. The deprivation of peoples of their right to food is a violation of their right to life. Women are most severely affected by these policies because they have primary responsibility for providing food for their families.

At present, a third of farmers (34.3%) and fisherfolk (34%) are considered poor. This situation is further aggravated by the authoritarianism of the Duterte administration. The government physically, emotionally, and mentally abuses those who oppose Duterte’s policies, as is evidenced by the number of grassroots leaders who have been killed, tortured, criminalized, and intimidated under this administration. The suppression of our right to food, our right to freedom of speech and expression, and our right to a peaceful life reflects the fascism of the Duterte administration.

We need to overcome the fear created by the tyrannical rule of the current government. Women play a critical role. They have the ability, wisdom, and strength to contribute to the struggle against authoritarianism and fascism. Under the Marcos dictatorship, people overcame their fear and united in the struggle to topple the fascist government. Many were killed, jailed, and forcibly disappeared. In order to fight against the Marcos dictatorship, we needed to do patient, diligent, prudent, and determined community organizing and conscientization to build solidarity and resistance.

We need to foster solidarity and resistance against anti-people laws and policies that exacerbate the poverty and hardships we experience. A concrete action to defend food sovereignty is to resist policies like the Rice Tariffication Law and so-called development projects like the Manila Bay Reclamation. We should also share and popularize peoples’ knowledge, practices, and systems on natural resource management. We should support local production and help enrich food sovereignty values and principles. We firmly believe that women will stand up, fight, and struggle for food on the table for their families, for food for their communities, for the peoples’ right to food, for food sovereignty, and for the future.

Voices from the field 2

Walking popular unity to resist conservatism and build food sovereignty

Francisca “Pancha” Rodriguez, ANAMURI, Chile

For decades The National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women of Chile (ANAMURI) has been part of the first line of resistance to neoliberalism, but has also been articulating a social and popular struggle to advance towards the sovereignty of its people. Decades of building an organization and movement, through political training and the deepening of proposals in alliance with various popular sectors in order to reverse the disasters of the Chilean “miracle”.

Today’s “Chile Awakens” cannot be explained without a process of popular articulation that has taken place over the last decade. Since the student mobilizations of 2011, passing through the platform of resistance to the TPP which communicated to the common people the implications of the TPP in our right to food and therefore an understanding that defending our Food Sovereignty is not only a matter for the peasantry but for all peoples.

The strong popular reaction to oppression is the daughter of that process of political accumulation and Food Sovereignty, as an anti-systemic project that confronts cultural, political and religious conservatism, is a central tool to be able to work on popular sovereignty from a specific place and make a difference for the majority.

Voices from the field 3

Principles of democracy underpin peoples’ rights to food

Suraphon Songruk, Organization: Southern Peasant’s Federation of Thailand (SPFT) – Surat Thani, Thailand

Principles of democracy underpin peoples’ rights to food. On the contrary, if a country is ruled by an authoritarian regime, people are deprived of political and civil liberties as well as economic, social and cultural rights, including their right to food. In this context, political and economic powers are concentrated in the hands of an authoritarian or oligarchic regime that upholds monopoly over food productions and systems. Authoritarianism corrodes peoples’ rights and control over their land, forest and water as sources of food. People then lose their rights to access food and define their own food systems.

Food sovereignty promotes human rights and dignity. Peoples’ movements can legitimately use this concept as a means, strategy and goal to assemble like-mind people and movements to extend their negotiating power. People can use food sovereignty to protect their territories and resources as sources of food production. It is a progressive concept that strengthens people’s struggles. It ensures that people have safe food and creates an environmentally friendly system.

Food sovereignty is the foundational principle of people’s sovereignty. Building food sovereignty is the starting point for people to liberate themselves from the corporate control of food. Ultimately, food sovereignty empowers people’s movements and small-scale farmers to resist authoritarianism.

Voices from the field 4

Private companies and the military are working together

Mr. Suon Sorn, Ou Kansaeng village, Samraong commune, Samraong municipality, Oddar Meanchey province, Cambodia

The political dictatorship has implemented an order that allows the military to be based inside our community forests, using the Thai-Khmer border conflict as justification. The military are clearing the forests and selling the lands to powerful high-ranking officials from the government, private companies and other privileged groups. These people steal the forest, water resources and local food systems from communities, undermining their rights to food. In Cambodia’s governance structure, central power and control rest with the military and it is very difficult for people to stand up against the military. Communities’ problems and issues are ignored by the government and peoples’ rights to food, land, water and natural resources are violated.

Private companies and the military are working together: companies give money to the military; the military protects the companies. If we remain dependent on these companies, we will face disaster. Food sovereignty is important to support and strengthen our communities, and resist what the military and companies are imposing. Companies are selling agricultural products that are unsafe, including fertilizers, seeds and other inputs. We need to go back to natural and ecological ways of farming. If we do not support the companies, they will not have profits and will not be able to support the military. We can start small, build community solidarity and sharing, and contribute to changing the system starting from our communities. Cambodian civil society and communities may find “sovereignty” a complicated term to understand at first, but popular education, training, sharing knowledge, and discussions on the principles and values of food sovereignty will bring more people into the movement.

Voices from the field 5

Agriculture in Palestine: Pillar of Steadfastness and Sovereignty

Joseph Schechla and Murad al-Husani de HLRN Housing and Land Rights Network, Palestine

The Palestinian farmer is the first line of resistance against occupation and colonization, far more effective than meagre negotiation. Notably, the majority of Palestine’s West Bank agricultural land (67%) is classified as “C” areas, according to the Oslo Accords. These lands fall under the military occupation’s direct control. The occupiers seek to concentrate the Palestinians in urban centers in the so-called “A” areas (the rump of the Palestinian state) to prevent their presence on the lands.
Israeli forces issue military orders that replace sovereign law–violating The Hague Convention (Article 43)–and impede all aspects of the agricultural sector, preventing Palestinians access to and cultivation of their lands. This causes desertion and degradation of agricultural lands, whereupon Israel imposes the “legal” pretext that the land is “unexploited.” This legal Catch 22 triggers the devolution of land ownership to the (occupying) “state.” The following statistics show the magnitude and ferocity of the Israeli occupation’s attack against indigenous agriculture:

This clearly indicates the occupation’s strategy to suppress agriculture as an effective means of resistance against colonization. It is the steadfast hands of farmers who plant the iconic olives in the occupied land Palestine, and their feet that give the land its fertility. The farmers’ breath gives shine and flavor to its fruits, as the Palestinian farmer’s symbiotic link to the land has bestowed its indelible identity.