Over the past three months, have you “experienced hunger and did not have anything to eat?”
This was a question from the Social Weather Stations, a non-profit social research station in the Philippines. Their findings show that more Filipino families are going hungry more often. More Filipino families are answering the above question with “a few times.” When asked how often they went hungry, a growing number of Filipinos simply responded, “All the time.”
And Filipina women are bearing the brunt of this hunger. According to Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza:
It is the women who are hit hardest by the food crisis. Mothers who make up the majority of those lining up for cheap NFA rice, are most often, the last to eat.
The Arroyo government has linked the Philippine rice and food crisis to a larger “world food crisis” as well as a “global price crisis” caused by soaring fuel charges. Her response is to call for “comprehensive agriculture program” to prioritize food production. She also helpfully suggested that the poor could mix rice with yams or switch to cheaper cereals in order to stave off hunger.
However, the seeds of this crisis were planted much earlier than Arroyo suggests.
Since the 1990s, women’s groups like Amihan and Innabuyog have resisted World Bank- and World Trade Organization-mandated development policies like land conversion and mining. Activists have used their bodies to block bulldozers and other machines sent to convert farmlands to factories. They have conducted analyses linking globalization and trade liberalization to the displacement of peasant women all around Asia. They have warned that the emphasis on cultivating export crops like cut flowers and tobacco will have dire consequences for an agricultural country whose main staple is rice.
The “Food Over Gold” campaign launched by the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APFWLD) in 2005 is an ongoing campaign to study the impact of mining on women and food sovereignty. Innabuyog Chair and APFWLD member Vernie Yocogan-Diano participated in a study of mining communities in Mongolia. The team found that while foreign mining communities are profiting,
Government policy on the mining sector and its implementation do not respect, promote or protect the rights of herding families. Currently, 45% of Mongolian territory had been given away for mining. In some provinces, 70-80% of the land is given to mining licenses.
While mining is looked upon by the Mongolian national government as a key economic survival for the country, herders and local people do not truly benefit from it. The right to livelihood and healthy environment of herders are being denied because of the tremendous destruction caused by mining.
However, there is encouraging news. The team also found local resistance, as various women’s and civil society organizations mobilized and worked towards alternatives to this aggressive and destructive mining.
The effects on mining aggression in Mongolia, the Philippines, and other developing countries, and the growing instances of hunger are all testament to economic development policies that do not address the needs of people. These are policies that prioritize gold over food, mines over farms, corporations over people.
It is these false development policies such as these that cause some 500 million people around Asia—majority of them women and girls—to go hungry.
[This post was written by tanglad for tanglad: feminist, runner, activist, dog-lover.]