Modern technology to support traditional ways of life

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - 12:08

Around Rural Women’s Day and World Food Day communities in Kenya, Gambia and Nepal are sending in SMS messages on land issues that are affecting them, to help create a compelling case for action both nationally and internationally.

This weekend I’ve probably sent around 30 texts, all of which were around my social and personal life. This afternoon I shall be doing some more significant texting – I shall be retweeting texts direct from Africa and Asia, as members of rural communities SMS how they are affected by land issues.

For every text I send a friend, I’m retweeting a message. Please join in and retweet these messages to ensure they reach as wide an audience as possible: They can be found here: @ActionAidVoices

We have been cultivating crops on land from the time of our ancestors even though this land still do not belong to us legally. Even the protest of us has not been mean anything to government.

Half the world’s food is produced by smallholder farmers and 8 out of 10 of these farmers are women. This staggering statistic illustrates how important it is to support and protect these farmers – particularly women - and the critical role they play.

An issue that is posing a huge risk for rural communities is the increasing demand for land by investors and governments. In Africa alone, land deals from the last 10 years account for an area the size of South Africa. Land-grabbing can mean losing a year-round source of food and livelihoods for smallholders.

Rural women are particularly vulnerable. With a lack of legally recognised land rights (less than 20% of the world’s land is owned by women) they often lose out when land tenures are changed. Women are also particularly vulnerable to the loss of land considered ‘common’ or ‘marginal’, such as grasslands and forests - not only a source of food but firewood, water and other supplies vital to communities’ livelihoods.

Lack of ownership and control over land, reduces women’s participation in decision making and also creates low income for women.

It is critical that governments protect rural communities and smallholder farmers, especially women, from land grabbing. But how can we ensure that when issues around land rights and land grabbing are scrutinised by governments, they truly represent the needs of affected communities?

With the people we are working with more likely to have access to a mobile phone than the internet, we thought that SMS messaging might be a good way for the actual voices of rural communities to reach wider audiences and governments.

To non-citizen #land owners: Let our government make new laws coz this land belongs to the people!

It would also be great to lend your voice in solidarity! We can find your tweet much more quickly if you use the #WFDAA hashtag.

If the land rural communities depend on to survive isn’t protected then millions could go hungry.