In Southern Africa, Small Farmers Fight for Recognition
BLANTYRE, MALAWI — Groups representing small-scale farmers, rural women and social activists from the countries of the Southern African Development Community, SADC, are asking the regional bloc to consider stop giving what they say is “red carpet” treatment to multilateral corporations at the expense of the poor.
The call is included in a joint statement issued by the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmer’s Forum and People’s Dialogue which says the region is facing ongoing challenges and a deepening crisis due to neo-liberal economic policies.
“Elite and transnational corporate capture and control of people’s basic means of production like land, water and seed is escalating. Natural resources are increasingly being privatized due to the myriad of investment agreements our governments have entered into with corporations, western governments and the "new comers" -- emerging economies from the South, like the BRICS,” reads the statement.
They say land has been massively grabbed in almost all SADC countries and the agribusiness model is destroying peasant-family agriculture, the only proven sustainable and ecologically friendly model and that can produce the most of food for SADC countries.
The social movements of the region also say the decisions made during the SADC summits that would benefit the people are not being implemented. They give an example of the 2008 Maputo Declaration, in which African governments committed to spend 10 percent of their annual budgets to support small-scale farmers to develop their agriculture, saying it is far from being a reality in most or all of SADC countries.
“Instead, we see SADC been influenced by South African’s commercial agricultural model based on cash crops for export, undermining local market development in South Africa and the rest of the region,” says the statement.
A board member of the Eastern and Southern African Small Scale Farmer’s Forum Grace Tepula from Zambia told VOA that the problem with SADC governments is that they take more care of the people from developed countries who come into the country ‘to deplete our resources’ in terms of investments.
“You would find that here is our ancestral land where we are farming, we have staying in those land for many years. Here comes the multinational company and we are told to move away because they want to mine -- forgetting that we are the people that are contributing to the food basket in the region for our families and for our neighbors,” she says.
Tepula, who is also a member of Rural Women Assembly, says rural farmers need to continue using traditional seeds and not those supplied by extension services which she says do not last long.
“So our concern from our experience as a rural farmers are the challenges we [face] like land grabbing, lack of water, the indigenous seeds that are being moved away replaced by other seeds that are being introduced on the market in our countries and in the region as a whole,” she says.
But the SADC new chairperson President Joyce Banda of Malawi says she will capitalize on her chosen theme of the summit – which focuses on agriculture – to boost small scale farming in the region.
Agriculturalists say new improved seeds are a solution to the lack of water and vulnerability to insects and other diseases. They say modern seeds are also higher yielding.