Peasant women decry landlessness, hunger, poverty | Land Portal

Women’s groups led by the National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) stormed the office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Quezon City on the International Day of Rural Women, Oct. 15, to protest poverty, hunger and landlessness.

The groups then proceeded to Manila and brought their protest to the Don Chino Roces bridge (formerly Mendiola) near Malacanang.

“The persistence of landlessness and the desperate attempt of the Aquino regime to prevent the peasant masses’ demand for a genuine agrarian reform is the cause of widespread poverty and hunger,” said Zenaida Soriano, Amihan national chairperson.

Soriano hit the DA’s Rice Self-Sufficiency Program which glaringly failed in its projection that the Philippines will be rice sufficient in 2014. Instead, the Philippines is among the top four biggest rice importers in the world with 1.6 million metric tons imported in 2014, according to the International Rice Research Institute.

For this year, the National Food Authority authorized the importation of 2.1 million metric tons.

Soriano said the government could have strengthened rice production by distributing lands to the farmers, providing production subsidy, and addressing the vulnerability of the agriculture sector to calamities. But instead, the Aquino administration chose to import rice, she said.

The peasant women’s protest is part of the simultaneous activities held on Oct. 15 as culmination of the “16 Days of Global Action on Rural Women.”

Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia Pacific said that in the past 15 days, hundreds of women from 20 countries held coordinated activities under the campaign ‘No Land, No Life,’ to underscore rural women’s demands for food sovereignty, land to the landless, genuine agrarian reform, bio-diverse agriculture, reclamation of traditional seeds and knowledge, and women’s rights.

‘Massive land grabbing, plunder of resources kills peasant women’

Rahmat Ajiguna, Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) secretary general based in Indonesia, said that “massive land grabbing and plunder of resources by big local and foreign investors, as well as the tightening corporate control over food and agriculture, have intensified hunger, poverty and displacement, thereby killing peasant women and their communities.”

Ajiguna cited the Public and Private Partnership (PPP) projects implemented by the Philippine government, such as the Clark Green City project [3] that covers 36,000 hectares of productive and abundant agricultural lands that will displace some 20,000 Aeta and farmer families in the towns of Capas, Bamban, Angeles City, and Mabalacat in Pampanga.

There are also projects like the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLEX) which would convert 319 hectares of prime agricultural lands in Central Luzon, the country’s rice-granary. The CLEX will affect almost 400 farmers and 10,000 agricultural workers.

The APC cited a similar case in Andra Pradesh, India, where government will grab 12,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the name of a new capital city that will displace at least 100,000 peasants.

Ajiguna said studies by the Food and Agricultural Organization show that rural women produce between 60 to 80 per cent of the food in most underdeveloped countries. Such studies made estimates that supporting women in food production could decrease world hunger.

“But how can we reduce hunger when the women whom we recognized as food producers are being displaced from their lands and livelihood as peasants and agricultural workers?” said Soriano, who is also the APC’s Southeast Asia coordinator.

Impoverished peasant women seek more jobs

John Milton Lozande, chairperson of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of agricultural workers, said women bear the brunt of poverty in a typical peasant family.

“While their hard work in the fields and at home usually comprises unpaid family labor, women are further obliged to seek employment to augment the family’s income and to secure vital services for their children, such as health and education,” said Lozande.

In Dole Philippines Corporation in South Cotabato, Lozande said 53 percent of the 3,435 workers are women. Women also comprise most of the workers in banana packaging plants all over Mindanao, where they are subjected to sexual harassment, and long work hours, “from morning until the wee hours or even until dawn of the next day, to meet quotas during harvest season.”

Lozande said that aside from this, women agricultural workers, like men, get extremely low wages, and insufficient protection from occupational health hazards.

[hoto grabbed from Gabriela's Facebook account/] [4]

hoto grabbed from Gabriela’s Facebook account/

“Women suffer additional burden due to discrimination, vulnerability to violence, sexual harassment and abuse, and the dominant practice of gender segregation in agricultural work,” he said.

In Bukidnon, for example, UMA noted that wage rates in sugar plantations range from P279 ($6.3) to P294 ($6.4) daily but the real wage of male workers in the province is P100 ($2.3) per day, while their female counterparts get only P91 ($2).

In oil palm plantations in Agusan del Sur, only 15 percent of the work force are women, because the work requires physical strength and stamina.

“Rampant unemployment among women in a community dominated by oil palm mill and plantations, has resulted in women and children seeking odd jobs, like making amacan or woven materials from palm fronds, or cooking home-made poison for use in the plantations.”

UMA said the situation of women agricultural workers especially in Mindanao shows the need for government to reexamine corporate agricultural plantations and their expansion.

“The insidious expansion of agricultural plantations is ‘the other face of plunder in Mindanao’ aside from the violent intrusion of giant mining firms. The aggressive expansion of corporate agricultural plantations in Mindanao has also spawned the current spate of killings of indigenous peoples or the lumad,” said Lozande.

‘Genuine agrarian reform’

Soriano said Filipinos especially farmers would live a stable condition if they owned the land they till. However, the government continues to do the opposite, said Soriano, citing the continuing control of the Aquino-Cojuangco over the 6,000 hectares of land in Hacienda Luisita and the family of Mar Roxas grabbing the lands in Mascap village in Rodriguez, Rizal and San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.

Soriano said peasant women are rising up and will continue to rise up in great numbers and take a big role in all mass struggles in Asia and the world.”We call on all peasant women to heighten the struggle for land. Only genuine agrarian reform and food sovereignty will end hunger and poverty,” Soriano said.

Misty Lorin, Gabriela’s deputy secretary general, said hunger and violence against peasant women will further intensify as foreign and big businesses continue to plunder the country’s resources, with sanction of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leader’s meeting in the country in November.

“This will further open up our economy, especially the agricultural markets, for foreign products because of the planned implementation of the Trans -Pacific Partnership Agreement that may also be discussed in APEC after its approval in the US Congress,” said Lorin.

Lorin said this will certainly draw stronger resistance from peasant women, along with other women in all sectors, “Because the issue of food is also an issue of women that ensures the life of the family.”

First observed on Oct. 15, 2008 by the United Nations, International Day of Rural Women recognizes rural women’s role and contribution in enhancing agricultural development, food security and eradicating poverty. 

By Anne Marxze Umil


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