Women discovered agriculture about 8,000BC. And they continue to make more innovations in farming and food distribution system aimed at feeding their children, family and the whole humanity. We could hardly figure out what the world would look like without women.
On the occasion of the International Women’s Day which is celebrated every March 8, Agro-Eco Philippines (formerly Masipag Mindanao, Inc.) joins the global community in paying tribute to the significant contributions of women on our lives.
They are our mothers, sisters, wife, partner, daughters, teachers and leaders. From their nurturing arms, thoughtfulness, love and courage we have become what we are. From their kindness and affections we became more compassionate to others. And from their toiling hands, we have foods on our tables.
There’s no question that women are inseparable to agriculture. The term “Mother Nature” describes the deep connection of women to our environment, consciousness and spirituality.
But when the TNCs-designed conventional agriculture was institutionalized 50 years ago, women have been stripped off of their roles in agriculture – from discoverers, seeds collectors and plant breeders to merely recipients of technology packaged under a top-down development approaches used by the government, academic institutions, and several NGOs. Their traditional knowledge and wisdom developed from millennia and passed on from generations to generations have been ridiculed and disregarded.
Most women farmers nowadays have turned out to be more dependent from the expensive seeds, technologies and farming practices developed by corporations. They became indebted to the traders and usurers, and untying from the situation is a hard struggle. Farm lands have been intensively converted to the production of export-crops, export processing zones and high-end subdivisions. No wonder why the incidences of rural poverty and hunger soared high in the last decade.
It’s absurd to think that farmers are foodless. But this is happening in many farming communities in Mindanao having 20% incidence of hunger. Women carried most of the burdens associated with this dismal situation. They are subjected to many forms of exploitations such as lower wages in agricultural production, discriminations, rural to urban migration, and human trafficking.
This must be changed! And changing this needs a multi-dimensional solution: genuine agrarian reform, changing conventional agriculture to organic and agroecology, collection of traditional seeds, participatory plant breeding, improvement of indigenous farming practices, legislation of pro-poor farmers policies, training and development of young organic farmers, lobbying and mobilizations, establishment of community-based entrepreneurship programs, and strengthening of local economies.
The women farmers of Agro-Eco Philippines have already been doing these for decades. And these worked well. Their lives and social orientation have been improved significantly.
But there are still many women farmers out there that need to be empowered and liberated. Let us join them in their struggle because it is our struggle too.