CSOs Gathered to Exchange Knowledge on RLEP South East Asia

Participants of Regional Learning Exchange from various countries in Southeast Asia gathered in Yogyakarta mid February 2017.

Bina Desa acted as host and organizer for the first part of the series of Regional Learning Exchange Program Southeast Asia (RLEP SEA) on February 13-19, 2017. The event held in Yogyakarta is the first part of the series of activities as well as the opening of RLEP SEA series which will be carried out continuously for two years forward.

The program arranged by the Pesticide Program Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP) with the support of MISEREOR invites CSOs and NGOs from various countries in Southeast Asia to understand more deeply and share knowledge and experience on the issue of agriculture and rural matters. Participants consist of around twenty delegates from the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Acting as the facilitators are Timmi Tillmann, Maruja Salas, Elizabeth Cruzada, and Sagari Ramdas. Bina Desa sent out  Mardiah Basuni, Ahmad Jacob, and Chaerul Umam as delegates, and Maya Saphira and Yuliniar Lutfaida as part of the committee.

In this first series, the theme is food sovereignty. Not only did the participants learn and discuss inside a room, they were also invited to the traditional markets and villages with agriculture activities. On the third day, the participants were invited to see the local traditional markets to examine how the practice of food sovereignty in the field through a search of the commodity being traded in the market. Participants were divided into several groups to then talk with the people in the market and do food sovereignty analysis from the conversations.

From this activity, it is known that food sovereignty is still reflected from many commodities in the market. A lot of commodities sold in the market come from farmers who own land and means of production who also has access to the market. However, it does not mean food sovereignty is not threatened, because there are still many challenges ahead. A lot of people are starting to sell their land and turned into agricultural laborers, or even abandon agriculture altogether to find work in the city due to pressing predicament.

Sharing stories and experiences related to rural life and agriculture between RLEP participants and villagers of Samigaluh.

The next day, the participants were divided again into several groups for the field trip to a few villages, namely Samigaluh, Banjararum, and Tanggul Harjo Village in Yogyakarta to study the life there, especially related to food sovereignty. Each of the village visited has its own uniqueness. Banjararum for example, have a dealer cooperative that buys village productions with good price and markets the products well that people are getting reluctant to sell their produces to the middlemen. Meanwhile in Samigaluh, credit union Cukata is the main feature.

During the trip, participants tell each other about conditions in their respective countries. Danica Castillo of PANAP reported that the Philippines still has a long process toward agrarian reform because the feudalistic monoculture agrarian system from the colonial era still firmly roots. Each region, according to Nica, usually only have one specialization of different crops from other regions, and most of it even belong to rulers instead of the people.

Heang Sokun of Cambodia explains that farmers condition there is actually made complicated by its own government, which requires registration of land allotment for only one type of plant so that farmers can not plant crops other than that listed during the data collection. If violated, the farmer can be penalized. Because of this, Cambodia is at risk of food security as more and more farmers decide to quit farming and get a job in the cities to avoid being penalized.

The event ended with a gala dinner plus gathering in which delegates from each country present a cultural show native of the country. RLEP SEA series of activities will be continued in other ASEAN countries in turn. (bd020)


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