Asian Farmers Association (AFA) General Assembly
April 10, 2006 | Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Consuelo Katrina A. Lopa, Officer-in-Charge, South East Asian Committee for Advocacy
On behalf of the members and officers of the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA), I would like to express our solidarity to all the members of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development or AFA. This Second General Assembly represents a milestone in your four-year history as a regional alliance of peasant federations and organizations in Asia. We, in SEACA, salute AFA and all of your members for the work you’ve done in advancing the cause of sustainable rural development and your efforts to uplift the lives of farmers in Asia.
However, despite our hard work and our valiant attempts to safeguard the rights and protect the livelihoods of farmers we continue to experience difficulties brought by the onslaught of unhampered liberalization. Today, more than ever, we face serious challenges that threaten rural communities around the region.
For most Asian farmers, globalization has brought miseries instead of the promised prosperity. It is correct that through globalization we are able to buy cheap, imported commodities from other countries. But it is also true that globalization has shrunk the incomes of farmers and farm workers. For instance, many vegetables growers from Northern Philippines are now out of work due to the influx of cheap imports from other countries. In 2005, agricultural products as input to the Gross Domestic Product or GDP of the Philippines declined. Shall we tell our farmers then to abandon their farms and migrate to cities and work for factories and call centers?
Advocates of free trade say that we have no choice and that globalization is inevitable. The World Trade Organization, which has the authority over trade in agricultural commodities, continues to convince us that we must accept change and compete to survive in this globalized era. But do we really have no choice? Shall we allow ourselves to be swallowed by free trade or must we continue to push for fair trade?
I believe that we have a right and responsibility to choose. We have a right to protect our sources of livelihood, our way of life and our natural resources. We have a responsibility to defend ourselves against exploitation and starvation. We must secure a future where our children will have enough food on their table. For the ultimate cost of globalization may be the loss of our food security.
In the next few years I hope that AFA and SEACA will work side by side in pushing for a more inclusive process in the various inter-governmental bodies such as the WTO and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. I hope that our collective effort will ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable sectors of our society will be heard. Thank you and more power to you.
Consuelo Katrina A. Lopa
South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA)
Unit 208, Margarita Building, 28 Matalino Street
Barangay Central, Quezon City
1100 Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel. +63 2 920-6228
Telefax +63 2 920-6202