Tuesday, 17 June 2014 16:36
What a paradox: the peasant women produce 70 percent of the country’s food but live in misery.
In this article we will try to express the specific situation of the peasant women, who are a key part of the country’s economy. To achieve this, it is necessary not only to study their role as producers, but to understand them in the context of the peasant’s situation.
Honduras rural population represents almost 61 percent of the total population; almost the exact percentage lives in poverty, crossed by a profound agrarian and food crisis: there are 300.000 peasant families that do not have access to land; from the 66 percent of the farmers who produce the main basic grains, only 8 percent have access to cultivable land. In the early 90’s, the Act for Modernization and Development of the Agricultural Sector set forth a plan to expropriate the peasants’ lands and the rights they had acquired by the Law of Agrarian Reform, which was enacted in the 70’s. Therefore, the peasant movement has been permanently struggled to have access to land, which has led them to suffer a fierce political persecution under the regime. An example of this is the recent case of the peasant leader Magdalena Morales to whom provisional closing of the file against her was pronounced on February 14th.
Peasant women between poverty, struggle and persecution
Rural women just like the Indian women are mostly illiterate, victims of violence, with little or no access to health services, education and decent employment. The peasant women contribute with 70% of the food production consumed in the country, but their contribution as producers is not reflected in their living conditions. For example, 65 percent of them live in poverty, 45 percent of them in extreme poverty, and they are the head of 25 percent of the peasant households.
On March 6th, the women from the “Vía Campesina” (Peasant Path) in the forum denominated “Peasant, Indigenous and African-American women establishing their political position in the process of integration” stated the following demands:
Immediate approval of the Bill for Agrarian Transformation for the rural women; the compliance of 10 percent of the budget assignment in the form of trusts for the development of Honduras’s agriculture; the ceasing of violence and threats from the landowners and businessmen against the peasant communities.
March 8th and women’s voice
On the last March 8th, the demonstrations on the Women’s International Day started at the National Agrarian Institute (INA, for its name in Spanish) with risen knifes and hats; peasant women were demanding the INA director to come out and listen to their demands, such as the right for land to work on and the means to produce it, at the same time they spoke out against the INA for being at the service of the powerful groups in the country and the multinationals; the comrades asked: why is our territory handed over to the multinationals for the model cities? This means that the peasants are not only victims of the expropriation of their lands on the part of the national landowners, now with the “Special Zones for Development ” (ZEDE for its name in Spanish), better known as model cities, the foreign landowners will have control over the lands of the peasant families.
Because the peasant movement has not ceased its actions for the access to land and to improve their living conditions, they are the main target of the regime, mainly their leaders and defenders of the peasant’s rights who are victims of persecution. Besides Magdalena Morales’ case, the General Secretary of the CNTC (National Centre of the Rural Workers), another important case is Isabel Morales’, a peasant leader from the Bajo Aguan whose sentence was ratified last February 7th; Isabel “Chavelo” was sentenced to five years in prison. Recently the lawyer Marlen Cruz Licona was captured for “usurpation, robbery and damage” against the Honduras Sugar Company S.A. (CAHSA). She is persecuted for her support towards the San Manuel Cortés Peasant Movement (MOCSAM) in the Sula Valley. These may be the most known cases but they are not the only ones; there are hundreds of families that are being prosecuted by the landowners and multinationals.
The peasantry need to reactivate their resistance making use of the revolutionary methods applied against the coup d’état, and not of the passive response advocated now by the current FNRP (National Front of Popular Resistance) leadership. While they keep insisting on not unifying the people’s struggles and not mobilizing, the peasants, mainly the women, will continue to suffer under the regime’s battering.