Day 2 in Rome
Today, we began the official Civil Society Forum on the Peoples’ Food Sovereignty. The morning started with an opening by the Mayor of Rome and by Jacques Diouf, the Secretary General of FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization). He encouraged us to insist on our rights and told of how he has worked for so long a time on working with civil society, called it a scandal that for years we’ve known the number of hungry in the world, their numbers have only grown, while the commitments of governments have not been equal to the task. Now they must be, and to support that effort, he’s gone on a hunger strike for 24 hours! I actually find him a little hard to believe and to take. He seems to me to be all bluster and bluff and ineffective to match his words and actions. Sorry! After his long expression of support and commitment, we moved on to the description of the program of the day, the process, and the agenda for the rest of the meeting.
We were going to begin with youth, women and indigenous caucuses so those groups could prepare their input to the rest of the civil society meeting. I decided to attend the women’s caucus, where men could attend, but not speak. The issues were on women’s lack of land tenure, loss of land rights through land grabs, the vulnerability of women farmers whose numbers globally are in the area of 60% but in some countries upwards of 80%. The women were appropriately militant and represented Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and the U.S. (especially fisher folk). Their voices were strong and compelling: they opposed GMOs, agro-fuels, multi-national corporations. I also did a lot of networking with colleagues from around the world I had met over the years including via Campesina representatives from Indonesia, Nicaragua, Mexico, folks I had brought to the United Nations for the dialogue on the right to food. I saw Olivier de Shutter’s staff, members of Oxfam America, Great Britain, Spain. I saw the leaders of WOCAN–of which I am a member: Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources–Jeannette Gurung, Executive Director housed at IFAD and Martha Hirpa (President from Heifer International). I also saw Arthur Goets Escudero fro Heifer and Constance Neeley, also from Heifer. It was a day for meetings and a day for networking. I am on the program tomorrow on resources for agriculture…water. Wish me luck. Ciao for now.