regional forum
women's regional forum on globalisation and food sovereignty


mobilising womens resistance against negative forces of globalisation

Mobilising Women’s Resistance Against Negative Forces of Globalisation

More than 40 women representing 16 grassroots women’s organisations from 12 Asian countries gathered in Chiang Mai on July 18-20, 2005 at the Regional Women’s Forum on Globalisation and Food Sovereignty to affirm their resistance against WTO and negative impacts of globalisation. The forum was able to consolidate various experiences of women on globalisation and its impact on food sovereignty of the people. In summary, globalisation and its forces like the WTO have made grassroots women and their communities poorer than ever. Food as a basic right has become increasingly inaccessible. Land rights and peoples’ control of their natural resources, which are the key to ensuring food for peasant and indigenous communities, are violated by state policies and laws which were consciously adjusted to accommodate policies of WTO and the entire globalisation process.

As a result of this, more and more women and their families are getting impoverished. The big irony is that they, as food producers, cannot even produce sufficient food for their families,which they used to do when they were engaging in subsistence agriculture. Peasant and indigenous women were forced to believe that Green Revolution and Agricultural Modernisation were their saviours against rural poverty and would enhance their food production. The reality is that the result is exactly the opposite. These programs were part of a process to make farming communities dependent on agro-chemical transnational corporations which took over agricultural production. Now, peasant and indigenous women have to buy seeds to plant, buy all the inputs that go with the survival of those seeds, and have to face consequences this exploitative agricultural system: indebtedness, low wages, high interest of loans, low prices for their products, etc.

From productive peasants and food producers, peasant and indigenous women have been reduced to being tenants, farm workers and migrant workers when their lands were grabbed by the state, local landlords or corporations. Productive lands have been seriously poisoned and polluted by hazardous inorganic fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and other agro-chemical poisons. Inevitably, exposed to poisonous chemicals the health of women agricultural producers is endangered.

Participants to the forum united in accusing globalisation and the WTO in bringing the peasants and indigenous peoples to the age of slavery contrary to promises of economic development and enhancing the lives of rural folks. What used to be self-sufficient and self-reliant communities are now fettered to exploitative relations with landlords and agri-chemical institutions. At the end of a cropping cycle, they end up bankrupt unable to recover the production expenses because of a very low market price of their products, high cost of inputs and the market flooded with the same imported agricultural products at much lower prices. This situation is very much felt by peasants engaged in commercial vegetable and rice production in the Cordillera, Philippines. The Regional Forum participants’ testimonies indicate peasant communities from the rest of Asia face the same challenges. And the participants’ field visit to Ban Mai Khi Village in Chaiprakarn District of Chiang Mai province was another evidence of the impact of globalisation.

The women peasants from Ban Mai Khi showed us tons of garlic which had been stocked for four months and awaiting buyers for a price that would at least cover the production costs. Ban Mai Khi is known for its good-quality garlic but since garlic from China had been coming in Thailand, local garlic hardly reaches the market; the producers are ending up bankrupt. This will mean hunger and greater indebtedness to the women peasants and their families. Other cash crops in Ban Mai Khi which are facing the same threat are hot chilli and fruits like longan and oranges.

Sustainable agriculture, food production and land rights are further threatened by development aggression. In mid 1990s, around 70 countries revised their mining laws to fully liberalise mining sector and accommodate the mining transnational corporations. In the process, sovereign states have abandoned their control over their economy. The experience of communities especially peasant and indigenous communities in the Philippines, Indonesia, Mongolia and India, where big mining operations have occurred and are still ongoing, have clearly resulted in food insecurity, violated the land rights and human rights of peasant and indigenous peoples hosting the mining companies, violated the rights of mine workers, poisoned the water systems and agricultural lands, caused health problems among mine workers and communities around the mines. Mining companies continue to fabricate lies on their contributions to national and even global economies, sustainable development and responsible mining. In the Philippines, the following facts disprove the claims of mining companies.

  • It is small scale-mining rather than large scale-mining which accounts for the majority of the gold that either passes through the Central Bank of the Philippines or is kept as reserve by the Bank. Small-scale mineral production accounts for 54% to 59% of all gold remitted to the Bank annually. Large-scale mineral production accounts for only 41% to 46%.
  • In terms of contribution to national income, large mining companies deplete up to P375 million worth of natural resources per year but pay only up to P30 million in taxes. Large mining companies engaged in the production of either gold or cement contribute 57% of the country’s environmental burden. Yet, they contribute only 6% to the national income. Agriculture and fisheries contribute 28% of environmental burden and 30% of national income.
  • In terms of export earnings, g old comprises the bulk of Philippine mineral exports. But it accounts for only 0.2% of all Philippine exports. More than half of it comes from small-scale mining. Philippine gold exports average US$49.6 million annually. Agricultural and fisheries exports average US$2.2 billion.
  • In terms of employment, as of 2002 , mining companies employed only 115,000 persons. Small-scale mining employed 300,000. Agriculture and fisheries employed 11,006,000.
  • L arge mining operations in the Philippines do not produce any key industrial metal in large quantities. Its main product is gold, which has little industrial use.

Given the disastrous impact of capitalist and large-scale mining in the Philippines, it has become a mobilising issue for peasant and indigenous communities, environmentalists and various sectors concerned about the destruction and rights violations brought about by this industry. Similar actions against capitalist mining are taking place in Indonesia and India. Mining companies have globalised their operations, thus, it is necessary to internationalise the campaign and action against mining TNCs. The plunder they are causing is growing day by day; their bad practices are being transferred from one country they operate to another.

States and imperialist institutions are responsible for destroying sustainable and self-reliant agriculture and food production of the people. On the aspect of food, globalisation is clearly meant to monopolise the entire system of food production, dislocating original food producers and developing a paternalistic relations where agro-chemical companies like Monsanto will have the monopoly of food production. And states will be looked upon for aid when food sources have become scarce and inaccessible.

The Women and Environment Task Force of APWLD will engage in various arena of discussions to further develop the concept of food sovereignty from the perspective of women and advance this framework with other networks working on this issue. The task force believes that this will be its contribution to assertion of women food producers worldwide of their right to food. Specific issues that will be addressed by the task force for the next three years will be mining and water privatisation, two issues which are faced by women and their communities in the Asian countries.

Globalisation has led to further oppression and exploitation of women. It has further divided the world into the poor and the powerful. It offers no justice. We must continue to resist it.

Vernie Yocogan-Diano
INNABUYOG, Cordillera, Philippines