Peasants Are Crucial Against Hunger, Still Under Increasing Pressure

Source: Eurostep (based on UN documents and articles published by The Guardian)

On the occasion of the International Day of Peasant’s Struggles, celebrated on 17 April, the importance of peasants and small farmers for the world’s food production has been stressed. Despite their importance for feeding the world’s populations, many continue to suffer from oppression and intimidation, experts have warned.

In light of the food crisis that revealed the international community’s failure to effectively address the problem of hunger in the developing world, the agribusiness industry has been put under increased pressure. The use of energy and resource intensive modes of production in industry have been criticised for curtailing the progression of a sustainable and climate friendly food market. 

It is in this context that the importance of rural people, including peasants, small-scale farmers, pastoralists, landless people, peasant fishers and indigenous people becomes apparent the most, experts have stressed.

Although rural people represent half of the world’s population and are responsible for at least 70% of total food production, their contribution to feeding the hungry is largely neglected, noted Henry Saragih, chairperson of the Indonesian Peasant Union and general co-ordinator of La Via Campesina. 

“Thousands of peasants and those who advocate on their behalf are still oppressed, intimidated, arrested and killed as they struggle for land, food, economic opportunity and human rights — even though they are the very same men and women who are feeding the world”.

Experts have also pointed to four decades of enduring underfunding of the agricultural sector and the shift of donor’s aid contributions to other sectors, specifically in Africa. Despite pledges from donor countries to increase their aid funding in recent years, the realisation of these promises has been very slow, they noted.

With these processes in mind, the need for African governments to play their part is increased. As Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, chief executive officer of the NEPAD Planning and Coordination Agency argues "We all have to make the necessary funding available. We need to increase our levels of investment into agriculture in Africa."

However, even with increased funding, an improvement on the ground will not necessarily be given, experts have warned. Increased focus should be dedicated to the sufficient access of peasants and farmers to key agricultural tools through the provision of agricultural services. In particular, women farmers should be prioritised in the provision of such services, noted Namanga Ngongi, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, a non-governmental rural development initiative launched by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. In this regard, it is essential that “necessary support [is granted] to the women farmers, who produce the majority of Africa's food”, Ngongi continued.