During the month of October, as the Rural Women’s Assembly engaged in a month of action across Southern Africa for World Food Day (15 October) and the International Day of Rural Women (16 October), we found that there was little to celebrate. People across the region are hungry. Countless are starving, and far too many children go to bed without food. The post Covid-19 period has deepened poverty in rural African households, especially for women headed households. Today, most rural women say they are poorer.
In Southern Africa, we are witnessing an increase in land grabs for the expansion of plantations and cash crops for export markets. These land grabs push peasants and small scale farmers, especially women, off their lands and destroy their livelihoods while collapsing local food systems. Plantations such as tobacco, eucalyptus, soya, sugar cane, palm oil is devastating for the environment, results in deforestation and ruins rural women’s livelihoods. The land grabbing by the mining industry creates conflict, fuels Gender-Based Violence (GBV), leaving behind a trail of ecological destruction and despair. Rural people are displaced from their productive land and find themselves forced to work on the mines or plantations for meagre wages just to survive. This is the ongoing scramble for Africa. Our natural resources are being sold and are not in the control of the people living on this Continent.
Furthermore, the industrial food and farming model, controlled by global retail companies, dictates not only what we grow but how we grow, what we eat and how food is distributed. In the past few years, large scale agro-industries such as Syngenta have merged and created mega empires which control seeds and other agricultural inputs. In Southern Africa, six retail companies control almost the entire food value chain and which food gets sold in supermarkets. The region is dependent on a global market which is perpetually in crisis and subverts our seed and food sovereignty.
It is for this reason that for World Food Day and International Day of Rural Women, the Rural Women’s Assembly promotes the Right To Say No and insist on exercising our right to an alternative development path. Instead of placing our survival and sovereignty in the exploitative hands of agro-industries and mega seed companies, we promote alternatives such as agroecological local food systems. We proclaim that poverty and hunger are “man-made”, created and maintained by a capitalist system which continues to plunder the planet in the relentless pursuit for profits, at the expense of people’s lives.
The Rural Women’s Assembly demands are:
- Food should treated as part of the Commons and NOT commodified, this makes food unaffordable
- We must connect life, nature and people before the gods of greed, profit and multinational corporations
- We must strengthen and advance agroecological production and women’s control of their traditional seeds
- We must build localised food systems based on local production
- We must build agro-forestry and community managed systems which protect our ecosystems and biodiversity.