By Marjo Busto
Every day, rural women in Asia face mounting challenges caused by an increasingly broken system of food and agriculture. High food prices, low income, land grabbing, climate change and decreasing control over seeds mark the experiences of the women farmers who grow much of the region's food.
Our Stories, One Journey: Empowering Rural Women in Asia is a traveling journal, recording the thoughts of eight rural women for 10 days in eight different countries. The women write, draw and compose poetry and songs. Their message is simple: help transform agriculture into a more equitable, fair and sustainable system.
The project is a joint collaboration of PAN Asia Pacific (PAN AP), the Asian Rural Women's Coalition and Oxfam's GROW campaign. The journal started in the Philippines, and from there it went to Indonesia, China, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. It is now headed to Vietnam.
We at PAN AP believe this is a powerful medium for the voices of rural women to be heard by those who shape national and international policies.
Entries are written in local languages, and will be translated and exhibited at our PAN AP Congress in September. It will then be shared during the FAO meeting on World Food Security in October 2013.
Here are a few brief excerpts and images from the stories that will be told.
Cambodia: Chey Siyat, a woman farmer and mother of five from Damnak Kantourt in Kampot province writes:
“In my community, the livelihood of people depends mainly on agriculture including rice, vegetables, fruit trees and livestock farming, which is the main source of household income.”
The Philippines: Margarita (Margie) Tagapan Margie is a member of the National Federation of Peasant Women in the Philippines (Amihan) and runs the Amihan cooperative grain store. She farms in Montalban, Rizal, at the foot of the Sierra Madre on Luzon island. She writes:
“I can say that I am a woman/mother who likes to work on the land. I have a passion for planting various kinds of vegetables.”
China: Li Zizhen is passionate about preserving the culture of her Bai ethnic people through dance and song, and is also a farmer who actively promotes ecological agriculture. She describes a typical day on the farm:
“Eight o’clock in the morning picked garlic in the fields. Two o’clock in the afternoon, returned home to eat lunch. Five o’clock in the afternoon, went out to sell garlic, and thought of October 2012 when I had planted it in the fields. Today picking garlic, time flew. The price of garlic this year is better than last year’s 9 yuan per kilo [$1.40 USD]."
Indonesia: A mother of four, Suryati, farms in an agrarian community in Pangalengan, West Java. She writes that Pangalengan used to be a fertile and productive land enjoyed by its tillers. Today, the majority of the lands are controlled by only a few companies involved in tea production, forestry, mining and horticulture.
“Without land we cannot produce food. That’s why genuine land reform has to be done.”
Marjo Busto works for PAN Asia-Pacific's Women in Agriculture program, and for the Secretariat to the Asian Rural Women's Coalition (ARWC). The Travelling Journal is one of the projects she coordinates to highlight rural women's concerns related to food and agriculture.