By: Ali Hassan
ISLAMABAD: While commemorating World Food Day, women farmers from different parts of the country, in collaboration with ActionAid Pakistan, on Tuesday arranged an innovative stunt activity in the federal capital for informing the impact of increasing food prices on small farmers, particularly the women who are denied the right to land despite the fact that they produce more than 60 percent food for the country while they own merely one or two percent of the total land.
Wearing different costumes, the women farmers performed in a play in front of National Press Club that highlighted the discrimination being meted out to them. “Women work hard in the fields to produce food for all, but they are not acknowledged as farmers. Women farmers are not rewarded for the labour input and even there is no share for them in the crop. Women farmers are essential to the farming sector, but the government was doing nothing to protect their rights.
“We ask the government to acknowledge women as farmers and to allocate land to them so that they could ward off the threat of food security and earn a dignified livelihood,” said Nazeeran Jemali, a woman farmer from Balochistan.
Following the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announcement that globally almost 870 million people remain chronically undernourished, ActionAid Pakistan has collaborated with media to launch a campaign on women’s right to land and promoting sustainable agriculture. Large-scale land acquisitions by national and international investors are increasingly impacting on food insecurity in poor countries. Role of multinational corporations is another cause of increasing threats of food insecurity in the poor countries like Pakistan.
ActionAid Pakistan’s Food Rights Officer Nasir Aziz said that women farmers in Pakistan produce more than 60 percent of food and they are the major portion of farm labour force, but their right to land is not acknowledged both by the society in large and the government in particular. He said that many institutions and individuals like landlords, bureaucrats, policy makers and parliamentarians did not like the idea of awarding land rights to women hence the women farmers were facing unending injustice and discrimination.
Action Aid believes that domestic responses should involve strengthening transparent, accountable and accessible national land governance and advocates for securing women’s access to land. Women are often denied rights to access, use or control land but are the backbone of rural agricultural economies, with responsibility for household food security and family care. In addition, smallholder farmers produce half the world’s food, the vast majority of them women – making land indispensable for their livelihoods and for global food security. Women face barriers to securing their land rights while national legislation tends not to be implemented or is ignored in practice. For instance, in case of women farmers from Sindh, access to government-allocated land is still a challenge.
Despite the important roles women play in promoting food security, women control less than two percent of land globally. Unless women have the right to own and farm land, food insecurity in developing countries will not increase, with women most likely to go hungry.