ActionAid International and the Asia Food Security Network (regional chapter of International Food Security Network) jointly organized a farmers’ exchange visit to share lessons from sustainable agriculture practices in Thailand. Smallholder farmers from Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand discussed sustainable agriculture issues in the Maetha Community, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. The exchange visit culminated in a seminar in Bangkok ‘ASEAN Farmers and Challenges of Inequalities’ on July 29. The participants in the seminar included senior officials from Thailand, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Alternative Agriculture Network, City Farm and Folk Rice. Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA) also joined through a skype presentation. They committed to work together on sustainable agriculture in Southeast Asia.
Besides sharing their farm experiences, the group of twenty young farmers, mostly women, demanded that smallholder sustainable agriculture should be the center of attention for national governments. They expressed concern about the inequality of opportunities to engage with policy making processes and noted that agricultural companies have greater access to policy makers. Lack of capital and expensive agrochemicals are pushing farmers into a debt trap. Land, water and other natural resources are under pressure from large-scale industrial agriculture and urbanization.
Ms Nong Thi Hong, a women farmer from Vietnam said
We face challenges like land-grabbing, women’s unpaid care work and youth migration to cities. ASEAN should support associations and cooperatives of small-scale women farmers to solve these issues through sustainable agriculture.
Ms Zin Mar Win, a women farmer from Myanmar said
Agrochemical companies receive more incentives than small scale farmers who are facing a debt trap. We need support from government and ASEAN to learn and practice climate resilient sustainable agriculture
Ms Mathana Aphaimool, a women farmer from Thailand said
We use local knowledge and innovative sustainable agriculture methods to reduce the threats that come from climate change. But we need greater support from our government and ASEAN to spread our successes
They demanded that national governments should:
- Provide more policy and budget support for small-scale sustainable agriculture. This should include research and extension, subsidies for production, marketing support and special initiatives for youth farmers.
- Develop specific policies to address women farmers’ issues including unpaid care work, and lack of extension services for women.
- Create spaces for smallholder farmers’ regular involvement in the development of policies to support sustainable agriculture.
- Prioritise implementation of the ‘Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security’ (TGs), endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in May 2012. The TGs aim to achieve food security for all and support the progressive realization of the right to food in the context of national food security. Besides supporting the eradication of hunger and poverty, the Guidelines also promote sustainable livelihoods, social stability, rural development, environmental protection and economic development.
The farmers also discussed the importance of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and demanded that:
- ASEAN Agriculture and Forestry Ministerial Meetings should be open for smallholder women and youth farmers in order to find regional solutions for sustainable agriculture.
- ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights should devise solution for farmers’ rights and women unpaid care work with the participation of the rights holders.
- Knowledge and experience sharing programs should be designed for smallholder farmers to promote sustainable agriculture in the region.