Groups ‘hungry for change’ demand inclusion of food justice and land rights on campaign platforms
In time for World Food Day 2018 and the second-to-the-last of filing of Certificates of Candidacy (COCs) in the Philippines, around 300 members of marginalized sectors and advocacy groups gathered in front of the Commission on Elections office in Manila today. The groups behind the mobilization titled “Karapatan sa Pagkain, Ipaglaban sa Halalan!” aim to send a message to voters and aspiring politicians to choose food security over personal interests.
Oxfam in the Philippines stands in solidarity with 13 organizations – including KAISAHAN, Campaign for Land Use Policy Now!, Asian NGO Coalition, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan – who are calling for the inclusion of food justice and land rights issues on the campaign platforms and term deliverables. The campaign dubbed as ‘#Vote4FoodSecurity’ includes advocates for the implementation of the National Land Use Act and the passage of food-related bills covering: alternative minerals management; forest resources; Indigenous Community conserved areas; and agribusiness venture agreements (AVAs).
In a joint statement released under the ‘#Vote4FoodSecurity’ campaign: “Just like a job fair, this election is like a search for the best candidate to be hired by people to serve the real interests of the poor and the marginalized. We posted the ‘best’ and ‘worst’ qualifications to guide political aspirants. Candidates possessing any of the ‘worst’ qualifications need not apply!”
During the mobilization, the group presented the ‘best’ qualifications: pro-land rights, pro-environment, and pro-human rights. Meanwhile, the list of ‘worst’ qualifications was long, including conflict of interest, supporting commercial and vested interests of big businesses that destroy the environment and agricultural lands, promoting conversion of agricultural lands, and coercing farmers and indigenous peoples into signing prejudicial contracts that trap them into poverty, among others.
“Far too many Filipino farmers, fishers, and workers—the people who produce our food—suffer from hunger and unjust working conditions. Women suffer even more, as they are often paid less for the same work. This is not right; it has to stop. We have to end the suffering behind the food we eat,” said Oxfam Country Director Maria Rosario Felizco.
Oxfam and the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Service, Inc. (IDEALS Inc.), a local non-profit that works closely with banana farmers to push for reforms in the agribusiness sector, join this campaign to spotlight how agribusiness venture agreements between smallholder banana farmers and powerful companies result in debt, poverty, and hunger for banana farmers and their families.
Oxfam’s global campaign report released in June 2018, ‘Ripe for Change’, found that banana farmers in Mindanao are ‘food insecure’ and ‘locked into grossly unfair contracts’ with large banana traders and multinational companies like Sumifru Philippines and Standard Fruit Corporation.
The report is based on surveys conducted by Oxfam and IDEALS, Inc. in 2017 using the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) method. Oxfam found that 75% of the surveyed women and men farmers, harvesters, and packers in Compostela and Mawab municipalities were food insecure; 38% of them were severely food insecure. The report further stated that 72% of women small-scale banana farmers surveyed in the Philippines were worried about feeding their family in the previous month.
The report also looked in detail at working conditions of banana farmers in Mindanao who have signed ‘onerous’ or ‘unfair’ AVAs with large trading companies as part of a lease agreement, ‘growership’ arrangement, or joint venture contract.
“We demand for the urgent passage of HB 5085 which will provide crucial reforms on Agribusiness Ventures Agreements to protect smallholder farmers and the universal ideal of agrarian reform which is ‘land to the tiller’,” said IDEALS Inc. Legal Officer Victoria Caranay. “We are working with small banana farmers in Compostela Valley and we see how they continue to be tricked by multinationals and big traders into signing complex legal contracts that allow buyers to unilaterally set prices, regardless of production costs or prevailing market rates, and place inhumane land use restrictions. If you want to know what modern day slavery looks like, you would find that it wears the face of small banana farmers,” Caranay said.
The ‘#Vote4FoodSecurity’ joins hundreds of organizations and thousands of people around the world marching together to support Indigenous Peoples and local communities on World Food Day 2018 under the #LandRightsNow campaign, which will run from 15-26 October 2018.