The Rural Women’s Assembly presented at the international conference on ecology on 13 October 2016 in Mauritius. The conference was hosted by the Centre for Alternative Research and Studies (CARES) under the theme: The Ecological Crisis and the Law of Nature. One hundred activists from various countries including South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Swaziland, Namibia, Madagascar, Morocco, United States of America and Rodrigues who participated in the conference.
Presenters, Brett Clark and others situated the climate change debate in the broader debate of capitalism and its effects on nature and how we relate to nature. Some key issues that were discussed in presentations include; the landmarks and shortcomings of COP, the limitations of REDD and its implications for local communities, the rights of nature in Mauritius. RWA presented on movement building and finding alternatives in the struggle against capitalism.
Building Movement – building agency and voice of poor rural women in the campaign for climate justice – Presented by Rural Women’s Assembly
Brett Clark in his earlier presentation made the point that the struggle against climate change is a struggle for systems’ change, today it is the struggle against capitalism.
Rural women in Africa and much of the developing world remain to depend on commons – natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods.
Rural women represent approximately 43 percent of the agricultural labour force, and in Africa represent over 60% that produce, process and prepare much of the food available, thereby giving them primary responsibility for food security at household, community and country levels.
This role of rural women peasants, agricultural labour, farmers and producers have a key responsibility and political task!
1) We cannot challenge and fight for climate justice unless we are well organised.
2) today – as you already heard REDD etc, similarly African agriculture is being targeted as the new frontier for capitalist investment and expansion.
3) Since the food crisis of 2008 – Some key multinational corporations and governments – Bill and Melinda Gates, MONSANTO, Bayers, USAID, DFID, Dutch and Danish Governments have begun to invest in agriculture. This is not all other initiatives such as AGRA ( Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa) , G8 Alliance, Grow Africa as well as a number of World Bank initiatives all target African agriculture.
4) what does targeting agriculture mean? It means taking over our traditional seeds, seed companies, creating schemes to mechanise peasant and small-scale farmer production ( by selling tractors, harvesters etc) by pushing fertilisers, pesticides etc.
5) most importantly we see in Southern Africa almost a complete take over the country level Farmer Input Subsidy Programme. This means these donors loan funds to African government to advance the FISP as per the Maputo Declaration which obliges African government to spend 10% of its budget on agriculture.
It is against this background that the RWA organises and campaigns.
Today the RWA has located its struggles at four levels:
1) we have to ensure every farmer knows and understands the policy environment- what is the green revolution, what is a GMO, what is happening in FISP, seed policy, agriculture policy, what is climate justice and why it is our struggle.
2) we develop and practice alternatives – promote and expand the saving of traditional and local seeds. We undermine laws that want to regulate farmer managed seed systems. All meetings, all gathering and meeting are utilised to share seeds, we smuggle seeds in the region, we encourage all the members to do the same.
We try to challenge the buying over of local seed companies. Agro-ecology, local markets, community nurseries and seed banks are integral to what we do. WE organise slow food markets in public spaces- livelihood fairs as ways of promoting alternatives to the takeover of peasant agriculture, culture and traditions.
3) we build common critics of the dominant model of agriculture – like in Mauritius (mono-culture) – and we are critical of AGRA. We are guardians of life.
4) we build the movements of rural women in all rural areas and villages across 9 countries in SADC region. We have to understand power. Capitalism is a powerful system, over the past decades we have seen how capitalism can adapt, co-opt ideas – Climate solutions show just how capitalism has co-opted “fixes” by providing false solutions.
We will not challenge and struggle against climate change unless we are organised. But being organised is not enough we have to challenge power and provide alternatives.
This is an issue that can unite humanity in fighting for another system, another world where people and nature are at the centre and not profits.