Category Archives: Issue: Farmer’s Empowerment and Solidarity

AFA shares perspectives on Farmers’ Fighting Poverty

AFA shared the perspectives of small men and women farmers in Asia during the meeting of Agricord to discuss the next phase of the Farmers’ Fighting Poverty (FFP) last October 6, 2010 in Brussels, Belgium.

Due to visa problems, AFA was not able to send its representative to the meeting, so it recorded a video message that was shown during the meeting and sent a paper that was also distributed to the meeting participants.

The meeting was a dialogue between farmer leaders from developing countries and farmer leaders from the OECD farmers’ organizations that are active within Agricord.

Agricord is starting a new phase of the Farmers’ Fighting Poverty and wanted to share the new developments with farmers’ organizations.

The discussion included the specificity of the farmer-to-farmer work (organized farmers with organized farmers) and the central theme of poverty and entrepreneurship and what it means for organized farmers, how farmers fight poverty.

In the video message and the paper that was sent, AFA Secretary General Esther Penunia highlighted the reasons why farmers remain poor, what farmers belonging to AFA are doing to fight poverty, and AFA’s agreement with the thrust of the FFP to focus its support directly to farmers organizations (FOs).

Click here to watch the video.

Click here to read the message.

Click here to read about the FFP.

Click here to read about Agricord.

Click here to read about Agriterra.

AFA Presentation for FFP

By Esther Penunia
AFA Secretary General
6 October 2010

Good afternoon to all of you. Am happy to be with you, to share our thoughts for the proposed next phase of the Farmers Fighting Poverty or FFP.

The Asian Farmers Association or AFA is a regional alliance formed in 2002. Currently, we have ten national FOs in eight countries in Asia, representing 10 million small scale women and men farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples. AgriCord, through Agriterra, is a consistent significant partner in our growth and development and in our fight against poverty.

Why are many of us still poor? First, many of us do not own the small lands we till. Thus we cannot decide on what, how, where to market our produce. We cannot plan long term investments on land. Second: we lack access to credit, technology, extension, roads, infrastructure, pre and post harvest facilities. Third, we lack access and control of our markets. It is the buyer who decides on the prices of our produce, we don’t have good roads, we don’t know who gives the higher price, and we don’t know how to add value to our products. Fourth, we are not the decision-makers, we are weak in terms of influencing our government’s policies and programs because we lack the numbers, the confidence to speak, the sharpness of our arguments.
Continue reading AFA Presentation for FFP

API News: Half Century Denial of Agrarian Law 1960: Half a Century Repression on Farmers

Jakarta: In order to commemorate the National Farmers Day on September 24, 2010, Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) or Indonesian Peasants’ Alliance in cooperation with Front Perjuangan Pemuda Indonesia (FPPI) or the Front of Indonesian Young Struggle, and Solidaritas Anak Jalanan untuk Demokrasi (SALUD) or Street Children Solidarity for Democracy performed a parade at the famous demonstration circle area of Hotel Indonesia (HI), Jakarta. The sympathetic parade was part of a series of actions commenced on September 22, 2010 at the Tugu Tani with theatrical staged, and ended with a join rally with other national people organizations in front of the State Palace in Jakarta on September 24, 2010 (Link: Media Indonesia/Photos of Peasants Action on

The actions were to demand the government to immediately redistribute 9.6 million hectares of land to peasants, to keep in order and to utilize the land abandoned for the benefit of the peasantry, forming the Adhoc Committee of the Settlement agrarian conflict and to execute the Agrarian Reform, revoked other sectoral Law (e.g. Plantation, Forestry, Water Resources, Food, Mining, Investment, Plant Cultivation System, Plant Variety Protection, and others) for they are in conflict with Pancasila, the Constitution of 1945, and the Agrarian Law 1960, oppose the criminalization of peasants in the agrarian conflict resolution and demanding the government to construct the Farmers Rights Act, raise the price of Government Purchasing Price (HPP) of raw/unhulled grain and rice by 20%, and push Bulog buy the commodity directly to farmers, and the last but not least establish the 24th of September as National Farmers Day.

“We need to take action and demand the government to immediately redistribute 9.6 million hectares of land to the peasants, to put an order and to utilize the land for the benefit of the peasantry. Since fifty years ago, the Law No. 5 year 1960 on basic rules of agrarian (UUPA) has been as an umbrella of agrarian law passed in Indonesia, but it has never been on the run by the government seriously. The Agrarian Law aims to overhaul the agrarian structure inherited injustice of the colonial era. UUPA 1960 is actually the realization of article 33 of the Constitution 1945, which mandates that natural resources and production associated with the lives of many people are managed for the greatest prosperity of the people,” said Ferry Widodo, the coordinator of Action.
Continue reading API News: Half Century Denial of Agrarian Law 1960: Half a Century Repression on Farmers

In the News (Vietnam): ‘It’s reasonable’ to ask companies to pay agricultural debt to farmers

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ho Xuan Hung spoke to Thoi bao kinh te Viet Nam (Viet Nam Economic Times) newspaper about ways to fund rural development

Viet Nam is on the way to becoming an industrialised country by 2020. Are we causing difficulties for industries when we ask them to pay agricultural debts?

Vietnamese farmers and agriculture experienced a long period of economising to build the country’s industry and they still make a lot of sacrifices for the country’s industrial development.

Millions of rural residents give up their land for the construction of hydroelectric plants, water reservoirs, industrial zones and residential quarters though they don’t benefit much from them. They have to move from their homeland to establish new villages and settle down. Therefore, using industry to pay agricultural debts is a reasonable requirement.

Read the full article at Viet Nam News

In the News (Thailand): Editorial: Forced Labor

A conspiracy indictment was brought last week against a Los Angeles company, alleging forced labor on a chilling scale. Six contractors are accused of a scheme to hold 400 workers from Thailand in virtual slavery on farms in Hawaii and Washington State. The Justice Department says it is the largest human-trafficking case ever brought by the federal government. Just as disturbing is how familiar the accusations are.

The company, Global Horizons Manpower, is accused of abusing the federal guest worker program, known as H-2A, in 2004 and 2005 and luring workers with false promises of steady work at decent pay. The workers, poor men from the Thai countryside, took on crushing debt to pay exorbitant recruiting fees, about $9,500 to $21,000. After they arrived in America, according to the indictment, their passports were taken and they were set up in shoddy housing and told that if they complained or fled they would be fired, arrested or deported.

The case, brought in Honolulu, coincides with the sentencing on Thursday of two Hawaii farmers, Mike and Alec Sou, who pleaded guilty in January to a forced-labor scheme involving 44 Thai workers. The Sous worked with Global Horizons before but are linked to the latest case only by the methods they admitted to using.

Read the full story at the New York Times

Filipino farmers mark agrarian reform anniversary, death of farmer-leader

Philippine national peasant federation PAKISAMA, a member of AFA, joined various small farmer organizations, non-government organizations, and coalitions in the Philippines in calling for President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to distribute Hacienda Luisita (a huge estate owned by the Aquino clan in the province of Tarlac) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) within the first 100 days of his administration.

The call was made by the Reform CARP Movement during the commemoration of the 22nd anniversary of CARP in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on June 10.

During the commemoration, PAKISAMA National President Crispino Aguelo said, “We expect more from him (President-elect Aquino III) because he said that he would pushfor serious changes for the sake of the Filipino people.”
Continue reading Filipino farmers mark agrarian reform anniversary, death of farmer-leader

AFA, PAKISAMA supports rural residents to be affected by special economic zone

AFA and PAKISAMA supports the campaign of the residents of the town of Casiguran in Quezon province, Philippines (mostly farmers, fishers, and indigenous peoples) who will be displaced by the creation of a special economic zone in the area.

The Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (SALIGAN), together with the Task Force Anti-APECO, held the first of a series of fora on “Addressing the APECO” in Quezon City, Philippines last June 4, 2010.

The activity convened multi-sectoral partners in support of affected residents of Casiguran, Aurora, largely comprised of farmers, fisher folk and indigenous peoples, who will be displaced by the passage of RA 10083 or the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (APECO) law.
Continue reading AFA, PAKISAMA supports rural residents to be affected by special economic zone

New AFA leaders sworn in

In the recently concluded 4th AFA General Assembly last April 23 in Ping Tung, Taiwan, the new officers of the Executive Committee for 2010-2015 were sworn into office.

The new leaders of AFA are as follows:

Chairperson – Mr. Tsai, Shun-Te, TWADA (Taiwan)
Vice-Chairperson – Ms. Jang, Jeong-Ok, WAFF (South Korea)
Treasurer (appointed) – Mr. Vicente Fabe, PAKISAMA (Philippines)
Secretary General (appointed) – Ms. Ma. Estrella Penunia

Continue reading New AFA leaders sworn in

AFA crafts new 5-year strategic plan

After a 2-day strategic planning workshop held in Ping Tung, Taiwan which was highlighted by an analysis of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT), a review of its progress vis-a-vis its strategic objectives in the last 5 years (2006-2010), as well as its mission, vision, goals, and 8-point peasant agenda (now 9-point peasant agenda), AFA farmer leaders and staff crafted the broad framework for its strategic plans for 2011-2015.

The framework centers around 3 main strategic objectives of (1) maximizing support of partners (CSOs, government and intergovernmental bodies, other FOs) in the promotion of AFA’s agenda by increasing networking activities and forging concrete partnership projects; (2) strengthening capacities of AFA in Knowledge Management; and (3) building a more sustainable, stronger AFA through a small-farmer centered governance and diversified financing.

Continue reading AFA crafts new 5-year strategic plan

AFA holds 4th General Assembly

The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), held its Fourth General Assembly, with the theme “Sustaining our Gains, Nourishing our Work” on April 20-23 at the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) in Taiwan.

The event was hosted by the Taiwan Wax Apple Development Association (TWADA) in cooperation with NPUST.

The highlights of the General Assembly was a review of AFA’s 2006-2010 strategic plan, as well as the crafting of its 2011-2015 strategic plan.

WRF organizes IYFF Asia Continental Strategy Meeting in New Delhi

The WRF, together with AFA, AsiaDHRRA, and CIFA as the host partner, are organizing an IYFF Asia Continental strategy meeting, to be held in New Delhi, March 23-24, 2010. The participants will be Asian Farmers’ organisations supporting the IYFF Campaign as well as representatives of national and international policy makers.

The aim of the Continental meeting is to discuss issues related to the IYFF Campaign: how to involve more and more governments and civil society, how to reach a common understanding of the main issues and challenges of Family Farming, and the probable outstanding activities and benefits of the IYFF, once it is declared by the UN General Assembly.

Read the full story at AsiaDHRRA

In the News (Japan): Hokkaido’s female farmers toil away in countryside couture

Farm clothes are not known for their sartorial elegance, but a group of Hokkaido women are staging their own catwalk shows with a new line of outdoor farmwear they are calling “Agri-Fashion.”

The women behind “Agri-Fashion,” which sounds similar to “ugly fashion” when pronounced in Japanese, are even touting it as a movement with the potential to attract younger people to careers in farming.

“I always wanted cute working clothes that were more fashionable,” says Kimiko Ikawa, 56, who launched the new line. “I thought by using bright colors and lots of patterns, I could make a new brand of farmwear that hasn’t been made before.”

Ikawa, a fashion school graduate, married a farmer and followed him to the town of Biei, Hokkaido, where the absence of younger residents has become a serious problem.

Read the full story at The Japan Times

AFA Secretary General pleads for more support to women at Global Farmers’ Forum

AFA Secretary General Estrella Penunia is in Rome to attend the Third Global Farmers’ Forum from 15 and 16 February 2010 in conjunction with the Thirty-third session of IFAD’s Governing Council. The Forum will bring together more 70 farmers’ leaders from around the world, representing millions of smallholders and rural producers from all over the world who will interact with IFAD staff and selected partners. The Forum will be opened by the President of IFAD, Kanayo Nwanze. Its closing session, in the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 February, will be open to the members of IFAD’s governing bodies.

The following is an excerpt from IFAD’s social reporting blog:

Estrella Penunia, gave a passionate keynote address, in which she said: “Women farmers will not remain victims, we’re key solution providers, nothing about us without us”. She made a plea to move away from gender stereotypes and reminded the participants and audience that women should be at the forefront of the agriculture. She said: “If we earn more, we can spend more on food, education, health.” Estrella then continued to say “Women perform magic to put food on the table”.

In her keynote address, Estrella shared with the gathering that “in many developing countries women cannot owe land, yet we are the one who cultivate the land and take care of land.”

She continuted to say that “50-90% of work in farms is done by women and women ensure food security when crops fail.”

Estrella Penunia and other women leaders such as Elisabeth Atangana, Kati Partanen and all the women farmer leaders showed passion in their interventions. Elisabeth remarked: “If women don’t have economic power, they can’t do very much. Women need access to financial resources, and access to land”.

As Estrella said: “Women work with personal touch, we need to help more women farmer leaders to further unleash their potential”.

Read more at at the IFAD Social Reporting Blog

Featured Article: Bill Gates: We need productivity and sustainability

Influential Bill Gates shares his ideas on what he considers a convergent issue on productivity and sustainability as complementary approaches to helping small farmers towards food security. What are your thoughts and reactions on this?

Helping poor farmers improve productivity is a critical step in reducing global hunger. But there is an ideological divide over how best to help them. The truth is that both sides have something important to offer.

While the World Summit on Food Security in Rome in November did not achieve all it should, it shined a welcome spotlight on small farmers who make up the vast majority of hungry and poor people in the world. Coming on the heels of a commitment by the G20 to invest $22 billion in developing-country agriculture, the summit provided reason to be optimistic that after decades of neglect, we’ll start investing in the single best strategy to reduce global hunger and poverty.

At the same time, I am worried that as momentum builds behind agricultural development as a long-term alternative to food aid, a growing ideological divide may cause the world to squander a real opportunity to fight hunger and poverty.

Read more at The Gates Notes

In the News: Thai farmers preserve rice diversity

BANGKOK, Jan. 5 (UPI) — Traditional farmers in Thailand are helping preserve a genetic diversity in rice not found in modern strains, scientists said.

The genetically diverse strains could be used to improve crops worldwide, said biologist Barbara Schaal of Washington University
in St. Louis.

Schaal and her colleagues studied rice grown by the Karen people in the hills of Thailand.

Read the full story at UPI

In the News (Indonesia): Thousands of villagers reclaim, cultivate land

The Jakarta Post, 01/11/2010

Disappointed by a protracted land dispute, thousands of villagers in South Sumatra have reclaimed plantation land managed by state-owned plantation company PTPN VII Cinta Manis.

The residents of Rengas village, Payaraman district, Ogan Ilir regency, placed poles along the disputed land and planted pineapple and rubber trees on the land on Saturday.

Similarly, residents in neighboring Lubuk Bandung and Betung villages also reclaimed land managed by the plantation company.

The dispute over 1,529 hectares of land had triggered a shooting incident recently. Police mobile brigade officers shot protesters, injuring dozens of villagers. Eleven of the residents were treated at hospital for their wounds.

The residents’ efforts to reclaim their land was supported by several NGOs, including the Palembang Legal Aid Institute (LBH), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Indonesian Farmers Union and the Agrarian Reform Consortium.

Read the full story at The Jakarta Post

In the News: Brainstorming on Stakeholder Engagement

(AFA participated in this recently concluded symposium held on November 23-25 at the Hotel Gran Mahakam in Jakarta, Indonesia)

Brainstorming on Stakeholder Engagement
ASEAN Secretariat, 23 November 2009

Civil society organisations (CSOs), think tanks, universities and other national and regional stakeholders around the ASEAN region came together today to brainstorm on possible methods of engagement between these stakeholders and the ASEAN Governments.

Held in Jakarta, over three-days, the symposium is designed to help in the development of a method for stakeholder engagement to support and further the process of realising the ASEAN Community. In particular, the method will support the building of a people-oriented and inclusive ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community pillar.

“This Symposium aims to design a system to facilitate CSO dialogue, conversation and interaction with the official process,” said Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, in his Welcome Address. Referring to the ASEAN Charter, Dr Surin said that “building a harmonious community needs the involvement of all stakeholders.” Article 13 of the Charter calls for the promotion of a “people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building”.

Moderated by Mechai Viravaidya, founder and Board Chairman of the Population and Community Development Association of Thailand, the symposium also features speakers from the European Commission, the Norwegian Children and Youth Council and the Southern Africa Development Community Council of Non Governmental Organizations – organisations that have had experiences in successful methods of regional stakeholder dialogue.

The “ASEAN Secretariat Symposium on Methods of Stakeholder Involvement in Regional Organisations” is organised by the ASEAN Secretariat, in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). The FES has worked in all ASEAN Member States and with governments, CSOs and other regional integration bodies.


Young farmer from Philippines to go on a hunger strike in Rome to protest nickel miningg project by Norway’s Intex Resources

By Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA)
November 15, 2009

On the opening of FAO’s World Summit on Food Security, Jonjon Sarmiento, a young farmer for Mindoro Island in the Philippines, and a participant to the CSO Forum Parellel to the World Summit on Food Security, will go on a hunger strike to protest the mining project to be operated by Intex Resources, a giant mining company in Norway.

The Mindoro Nickel Project is located at Victoria, Oriental Mindoro, an island in the Southern Part of the Philippines. It will cover 9,720 hectares of critical watershed areas . The project will affect the rice farmers in the nearby towns , since the watershed area is the farmers’ main source for irrigation.

From November 17 onwards, volunteer campaigners in Mindoro will hold a hunger strike and fasting at the Philippines; Department of Environment Office in Quezon City, Philippines. “

I am from this town. I am a farmer. I am a youth leader. I am here in Rome. So , I will join my townmates in their hunger strike while I am here in Rome”, Mr. Sarmiento said.
Continue reading Young farmer from Philippines to go on a hunger strike in Rome to protest nickel miningg project by Norway’s Intex Resources

Letter of Support to Hunger Strikers against Mining Project in Mindoro

16 November 2009

Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Quezon City, Philippines

Dear Hon Atienza,

We are participants gathered here in Rome, Italy, for the Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Now: Civil Society Organizations’ Forum Parallel to the World Summit on Food Security, being held November 14-17, 2009.

Mr. Jonjon Sarmiento, one of the delegates to this Forum, a young farmer from Mindoro, Philippines, started his hunger strike to protest the mining project to be operated by Intex Resources of Norway, in his hometown . We learned that this project will threaten the food security of the people of Mindoro, since the project will severely affect the critical watershed areas which provide irrigation to the ricefields and fruit farms in this island, which is a food basket of your Southern Luzon region.

We learned that your agency has issued an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) against the will of the people and the local authorities to be affected.

We support the hunger strike of Mr. Sarmiento as well as the hunger strike of 25 other farmers and indigenous peoples in front of your office.
Continue reading Letter of Support to Hunger Strikers against Mining Project in Mindoro