29 August 2018 | Landbou

SADC rural women critical of subsidy programmes

Chemicals, monoculture promoted

Catherine Sasman - Rural women in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) say rural populations across the region are becoming poorer, inequality is increasing and rural under-development has seen greater struggles for resources.

This was said at the Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) on Wednesday, 15 August, in Windhoek ahead of the 38th SADC Summit.

RWA is a self-organised alliance of national rural women’s movements, assemblies, grassroots organisations and chapters of mixed peasant unions, federations and movements across the region.

“We want to know what SADC leaders are going to do to support us,” Flaida Macheze, a member of Mozambique’s National Small-scale Farmers Union, said.

RWA delegates from nine countries focused their discussions on farm-input subsidy programmes (FISP), which are being implemented by governments across sub-Saharan countries.

FISP’s mainly focuses on subsistence farmers, offering financial assistance for farmers to acquire specific inputs to enhance their farming, such as seeds, pesticides, fertilisers, and equipment.

These inputs usually have to be purchased from a government agency, an agribusiness dealer, or a commercial supplier.

“FISPs are meant to increase food security, boost welfare, and provide economic benefits for farmers. However, we have seen more negative effects of FISP across the region,” said Mercia Andrews, a delegate from South Africa.

“These FISP’s are a conduit for increased use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. It is about getting farmers to use inputs produced by multinational corporations and growing corporate profits, while also entangling subsistence farmers in debt,” Andrews added.

Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water, Sophia Kasheeta, said the Namibian government is supporting small-scale farmers with finance, fertilisers and access to markets.

Kasheeta said the government is supporting 84 000 households with farm subsidies.

“Supporting agriculture is an important task because the country is reliant on agriculture,” Kasheeta said.

However, she confirmed that only chemical fertilisers are currently part of the government programme, and they were still investigating the use of organic fertilisers.

Testimonies from farmers in other countries also proved critical of FISP. A woman farmer from Lesotho said FISP in her country is not benefiting small-scale farmers.

“It is designed for the rich farmers. FISP is also breeding corruption – government officials and the local elite benefit first. Moreover, the FISP is promoting monoculture because they only give maize seeds. The government is also importing chemicals and fertilisers and forcing farmers to use this,” she said.