August 15, 2018
RURAL WOMEN GATHER FOR STRONG MESSAGE TO SADC LEADERS
Rural women delegates from nine Southern African countries are gathered in Windhoek, Namibia ahead of this week’s SADC summit to formulate a strong message to SADC leaders around land, food security, and rural development.
The Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) is a self-organised alliance of national rural women’s movements, assemblies, grassroots organisations and chapters of mixed peasant unions, federations and movements across the SADC region.
“Rural people are getting poorer. Inequality is increasing, and rural under-development has seen greater struggles for resources among rural people. We want to know what SADC leaders are going to do to support us,” says Flaida Macheze, a member of Mozambique’s National Small-scale Farmers Union.
At the opening gathering at the Gateway Centre in Khomasdal on Wednesday, delegates focused on Farm Input Subsidy Programmes (FISP), which are being implemented by governments across Sub-Saharan Africa.
FISP is aimed mainly at subsistence farmers where they are offered financial assistance to acquire specific inputs to enhance their farming – such as seeds, pesticides, fertilizers or even equipment. These inputs usually have to be purchased from a government agency, an agribusiness dealer or a commercial supplier.
“FISPs are meant to increase food security, boost welfare, provide economic benefits for farmers, but we’ve seen more negative effects of FISP across the region,” said Mercia Andrews, a delegate from South Africa.
“These FISPs are a conduit for increased use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It’s about getting farmers to use inputs produced by multinational corporations and growing corporate profits, while also entangling subsistence farmers in debt,” Andrews added.
In an address to the gathering of women, Namibia’s Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water, Ms Sophia Kasheeta, reported on how the Namibian government was supporting small-scale farmers with finance, seeds, fertilisers and access to markets.
“Supporting agriculture is an important task because the country is reliant on agriculture. The Namibian government is currently supporting 84 000 households with farm subsidies,” Kasheeta reported.
However, she confirmed that only chemical fertilizers were currently part of the government programme, and they were still investigating the use of organic fertilisers.
The Namibia Government representative was also challenged by one women farmer.
“We certainly benefit from the radio information that the Ministry of Agriculture provides but I get nothing else. I have to carry water for 6km to my farm. How can I manage and feed my cattle and my garden? The extension officer says they cannot support us because his budget has been cut. How can we improve if we have no meaningful support?” the delegate complained.
Testimonies from farmers in other countries also proved critical of FISP. A women farmer from Lesotho said that in her country FISP was not benefiting small scale farmers.
“It is designed for the rich farmers. FISP is also breeding corruption – government officials and the local elite benefit first. Moreover, the FISP is promoting monoculture because they only give maize seeds. The government is also importing chemicals and fertilisers and forcing farmers to use this.”
The Rural Women’s Assembly will reconvene tomorrow (Thursday 16 August) at the Goodwood Showgrounds.
Tomorrow’s programme will focus on women and land.
FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:
Ms Mamalefetsane Phakoe – Lesotho Rural Women’s Assembly
Tel: +264 81 610 7373
Ms Flaida Macheze – (UNAC) Mozambican National Small-scale Farmers Union
Tel: +258 84 464 2727
Ms Mercia Andrews – South African Rural Women’s Assembly
Tel: +27 82 368 3429