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Rural Women’s Assembly Media Statement – International Day of Peasant Struggles 2024

This International Day of Peasants Struggles, we make an urgent call for an immediate halt to the continued criminalization of peasant farmers worldwide, emphasising the imperative to safeguard their human and collective rights. As peasant and small-scale food-producing communities, while striving for land with water, the commons, and food/seed sovereignty, we often encounter repression in our efforts to defend our areas against powerful interests from governmental and corporate spheres. Africa has become a target for land acquisitions by foreign investors, governments, and multinational corporations.

Land grabbing, whether legal or illegal, systematically dispossesses peasant farmers and indigenous communities of their ancestral lands, perpetuating cycles of poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation. Furthermore, while touted as initiatives to boost agricultural productivity and address food insecurity, these land grabs and seed laws mostly disregard the rights and livelihoods of local communities.

Across Southern Africa, criminalization has emerged as a prominent strategy to undermine, incapacitate, and disrupt lawful assertions of peasant rights. Small farmers’ seed rights are facing imminent threats. These legislative measures, often endorsed by global financial institutions, heavily favour large agri-businesses. There is no autonomy to select and save their own seeds, small farmers are compelled to buy commercial seeds, a practice that significantly boosts the profits of corporate giants but undermines the interests of the farmers who produce the bulk of the world’s food. Rural women, who are the backbone of agricultural production in Africa, bear the brunt of these injustices.

Particular attention must be paid to advancing the rights of rural women. We, as rural women, play a pivotal role in agricultural activities, and are particularly affected by these developments. We are often marginalised in decision-making processes regarding seed selection and farming practices, exacerbating their vulnerability within the agricultural sector. As these laws disproportionately disadvantaged small scale farmers, further widening existing gender disparities in agriculture. It is imperative to recognize and address these gendered dimensions in the struggle to protect small farmers’ seed rights and ensure equitable access to resources and decision-making opportunities in agriculture.

As the Rural Women’s Assembly, we denounce the insidious practice of peasant oppression in all its forms and the devastating consequences it inflicts on our rural communities across Africa and around the world. These practices heavily undermine rural women’s access to resources essential for their economic empowerment and food security. Many rural women rely on small-scale farming for their livelihoods, yet they are frequently marginalised in resource allocation processes and excluded from decision-making forums. This perpetuates gender disparities and exacerbates the vulnerability of rural women within the agricultural sector.

Demands for Peasant and Rural Community Rights:

We call on African governments to enact and enforce robust land tenure laws that protect the rights of rural communities, particularly women, to access and control land resources. Land allocation processes must be transparent, inclusive, and participatory, ensuring that the voices of rural women are heard and respected.

We urge the international community to hold accountable those responsible for the oppression of peasants through lands grabs and indigenous seed criminalisation and to support initiatives that promote genuine partnerships with African communities based on mutual respect, equity, and sustainability.

Governments, corporations, and international organisations must urgently adopt and enforce the UNDROP, ensuring the protection and respect of peasants’ and rural communities’ rights.

Governments must also acknowledge and rectify the systemic injustices faced by peasants and rural communities, including implementing policies prioritising peasants’ land and resource rights over corporate interests.

We demand the preservation and recognition of indigenous seeds and knowledge, ensuring their utilisation by peasants and rural women. This includes ownership rights over seeds and rejecting coercive practices forcing the use of hybrid seeds. 

We call for transparent and accessible land tenure systems, meaningful participation of rural women in decision-making processes concerning agriculture, and access to financial resources and markets for small-scale producers, particularly rural women.

We call on governments to prioritise policies to safeguard local and farmer-managed seed systems, recognizing their critical role in preserving biodiversity, ensuring food sovereignty, and enhancing food security.

We call for control of FISP and right to access agroecological/ organic inputs 

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