Rural Women’s Assembly Statement on International Rural Women’s Day and World Food Day

14 October 2016  

International Rural Women’s Day’ is marked on the 15th October and World Food Day is on the 17th October. Both these days are very recent events and were first established by the United Nations less than 10 years ago. The main purpose was to recognize “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.” For us in the Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA), we would also include the recognition of fish women and farm workers.

Today it is commonly acknowledged that it is poor, rural women, the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods, make up over a quarter of the total world population.

In developing countries, rural women make up over 50% of all agricultural labor and produce, process and prepare much of the food available in Africa. It is women farmers, fishers and farm workers who are key to providing household food security.

For us, in the RWA we also want to use International Rural Women’s Day and World Food Day to celebrate the contribution that rural women make, but also to highlight the challenges that they face in their everyday struggles for land and water.

Since 2008 peasant and small-scale agriculture in Africa is under threat. We are told that we cannot “feed ourselves”; we do not produce enough to feed our communities. This approach has opened the door for the proliferation of bi-literal and multi-lateral initiatives to support the expansion of industrial -agribusiness inputs and the takeover of African seeds, biodiversity and land.  Throughout Africa, we see greater monopolization of food distribution with a few supermarkets controlling the distribution of food, what is sold and what we eat. In many instances local, indigenous food is replaced by “fast foods”, displacing local markets.

The RWA also want to emphasize that the world and Africa, in particular, live in a time of deep climate crisis, droughts, floods, fires, and destruction of top soil.

International Rural Women’s Day and World Food Day are moments where we can say that rural women, small-scale farmers, peasants, fishers etc, show that we have answers and alternatives to the agri-business. Some of these alternatives, such as agroecology, seed saving, the slow food movement and water harvesting exist and have become wide-spread. These processes have to be expanded and supported by our government! We require subsidies for small-scale farmers; we require tenure of security on land and access to water.

Lastly, to strengthen the local agroecological movements and to continue to shape alternatives we have to re-organize our relationship with nature.  We recognize the importance of farming practices that are in harmony with nature. We say NO to the use of chemicals and NO to the use of fertilizers. We want to grow our food organically!

Contact: Mercia Andrews mercia@tcoe.org.za

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