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Home > Newsletters Nyéléni in English > Newsletter no 22 - Nutrition and Food Sovereignty > Newsletter no 22 - Voices from the field

Newsletter no 22 - Voices from the field

Monday 15 June 2015, by Manu

Voices from the field 1
Food and nutrition under the neoliberal model in our Chile

World March of Women-Chile (MMM-Chile), www.marchamujereschile.cl

The neoliberal model in Chile transformed the economy through a system of privatization of goods and services such as: education, health and social services. It also drastically separated the rich neighborhoods from the poor ones. If you do not want to see poverty, you will never find it because, modern urban planning created large avenues and direct access tunnels from the airport towards the big city. This way, businessmen and business women are taken straight to the upper districts. Today, this is our Chile: firmly set on extractive industries and with an income gap which puts us between the top seven countries with the highest inequality and worst wealth distribution.

Within this neoliberal model, the food and nutrition of the population gradually changed for the worse, up to the point where it replaced the balanced diet of our Chilean kitchens. The agricultural counter-reform caused an agricultural change which led to a focus on fruit crops and vineries for export. As such, it eliminated traditional crops and forced out the peasants which in turn led to their massive migration to the cities and transformed them into a cheap labor force. Two consequences arose, the first being that on our tables we no longer have the high diversity of our fruits, cereals and vegetables. A second consequence is that home cooked food is no longer consumed by the public; they have replaced it with junk food which entered the market with feast and glory alongside big corporations and transnational companies which threaten the food sovereignty of the people.

The negative impact of this model on the lives of the peasants has mostly had repercussions on women, having a direct impact on them for decades. The phenomenon known as "the feminization of poverty" increased migration, school drop-out rate and work insecurity and instability; it caused chronic health issues due to the haphazard use of insecticides on the plantations where women work (e.g. birth defects, spontaneous abortions, etc.). Currently, because of the direct effect of malnutrition on women of reproductive age, a diagnosis of gestational diabetes is often given to pregnant women.

Bad nutrition has surged considerably, up to the point where obesity level is high in the adult population, and with a rate that reaches 20% in children under six years-old. The natural relations between cities and the fields have been systematically wiped-out and the "farm-to-table" phrase, instituted decades ago, no longer exists. Sadly and usually, the population is not aware that said connection brings about a fair trade with a healthy, free from agricultural toxins and pesticides diet, which does not harm their health. Junk food is on the opposite end of the spectrum and in the long run it is the more expensive one due to its excess of carbohydrates and sugars which cause added damage and chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions.

Voices from the field 2
When there are language, border and livestock, the nation of Mongolia is prosperous! (ZunduinDorj)

Munkhbolor (Bolor) Gungaa, Member of Mongolian Alliance of Nomadic Indigenous People, Mongolia.

Inadequate control over and ownership of land by nomadic herders in Mongolia has allowed foreign investors to lease significant areas of land for commercial purposes and has increased land concentration and landlordism in the country.

According to the World Bank, mining has led to rapid economic growth in Mongolia, but the reality for people living near the mines is different. Pollution has had an impact on everyone, but the people who have suffered the greatest impoverishment are the nomadic herder communities. Their life-sustaining pastures, water springs and seasonal camps are being lost to open-pit mines and the road building, waste dumping and water extraction that come along with the mining industry [1]. Mining exploitation has produced a shortage of animal grazing land and water sources, compelling pastoralists to leave their nomadic lifestyle and move to urban areas seeking for their survival. The population in the capital Ulaanbaatar has been growing rapidly as a result of the high forced exodus of many pastoralist families who had to settle down in urban areas without their free, prior and informed consent due to loss of their livelihoods in their customary lands. Migration to urban centres has impacted negatively on the nomadic Mongolians who have lost their traditional knowledge for food and nutrition security.

Mongolia in the heart of Inner Asia is known as spiritually and historically connected to the richness of nomadic culture and its horseback kitchen [2]. Mongols, as descendants of Chingis Khan, whether they are policy makers or pastoralists, are all blessed and will never fall on their knees, but stand ever brighter on their shoulders! As the descendants of the great queens of wisdom, Mongolian women and their children have the historical rights to live on their customary lands and feed the world with sustainable and nutritious food from generation to generation. The continuous resource exploitation in their customary lands is affecting women in a particular way, forcing them to give up their maintaining role in food security as well as causing health problems, especially in relation to birth defects on newly born children.


[2“Horseback kitchen” relates to the history and way of life of Mongolian nomadic people. They move long ways on horsebacks and eat their meals while riding.