The vast majority of food is grown by women. In the Global South, women are the primary producers of basic grains such as rice, wheat, and corn. Yet women – and their children – are the most likely people to suffer from hunger in the world.
In poor countries around the globe, women have increasingly been entering salaried agricultural work, producing food for export in the agribusiness sector. But women are not offered comparable pay or jobs as their male counterparts in this sector. And of course salaried work imposes a double burden since women must continue to work in non-salaried labor in order to grow food for their families. In Spain, for instance, women workers in agribiz make 30-40% less than men.
The food crisis, in other words, is also a gender crisis. More and more of the aspects of social reproduction that were once controlled by peasants – by peasant women, specifically – are being subsumed by agribiz. As this happens, control over food production is taken out of the hands of producers and submitted to the whims of global capital.
The upshot has been a global wave of de-peasantization and migration to megacities, many of which are now directly in harm’s way as a result of climate change.
Esther Vivas offers an excellent discussion of these trends, and of the resistance organized by peasant women through organizations such as La Via Campesina, in her report “Without Women There Is No Food Sovereignty.”
Also worth checking out is my colleague Fred Kaufman’s recent book Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food. As it’s title suggests, Bet the Farm explores the financialization of food, as well as linked political consequences such as the Arab Spring.
The contradictions in the global food system are set to catalyze dramatic upheavals in the not-too-distant future. Vivas and Kaufman help us understand where these crises are coming from, and how we can challenge them.
Mubarak is gone!
Lost in the incredibly gripping stories emerging from Egypt in recent weeks has been any discussion of links between the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. This lack of analysis also marginalizes discussion of which countries – in North Africa and elsewhere – might be next.
Issandr El Amrani’s article goes some way to addressing the linked questions of “why Tunisia – why Egypt?”
We’ll see where the revolutionary baton will be taken up next. The great danger here is that these uprisings for democracy will go the way of those that came at the end of the Cold War in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and elsewhere: popular revolts will lead to the establishment of formal democracy, but in tandem with augmented neo-liberal economic policies. If this is the result of the present uprisings, there will truly be reasons for bitterness.
But it’s better not to indulge such gloomy thoughts. For now, the people of Tunisia and Egypt and their supporters all around the world have just cause for feeling triumphant.
Worth watching today are the massive cuts to the public sector being announced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government today in the UK.
The chief secretary of the Treasury was photographed holding a briefing paper that acknowledged the loss of nearly 500,000 public sector jobs over the next three years.
University funding is slated to be cut by 80%.
It’s a total bloodbath.
As Joseph Stiglitz explains in an interview today, it also makes absolutely no economic sense. If you suddenly cut the jobs of a significant amount of the population, they no longer have the income to purchase products, and the economy begins to contract. Recession turns into depression.
1929 here we come…