Thursday, November 12, 2009
Farmer: Come up and let the world listen you
If there is one principal lesson farmers can draw from history, it is the following: that, when farmers are not strong, many sections and sectors of the society are ready not only to tell the farmers what they should do,
but even worse, to speak on their behalf.
This historical recurrence is often all in good faith. Most ministries, political parties, associations, promotional non-governmental organizations as well as development agencies and most experts have indeed committed
this sin, often in an unaware fashion. Indeed, many a political party has set up campaign sub-committees to get farmers’ votes. Many a non-governmental organization, whether from the north or the south, but with no mandate from farmers, have stood up in international meetings to voice, in often fascinating detail, the farmers’ plight.
Questions remain on whether farmers’ voice is such a sought-after commodity after all, and whether the society would like farmers to speak. Indeed the lack of farmers’ voice is often unnoticed, precisely because of the enthusiasm with which other people are ready to speak on behalf of farmers. Similarly, during periods when farmers do speak, farmers’ voice is more readily seen as something of a "problem". Irrespective of its desirability, the lack of an effective farmers’ voice is indeed an impediment to agricultural and rural development. Whether it be the development of agriculture or of rural society or the protection of environment, farmers play a vital role. A two-way dialogue therefore needs to be established between farmers, and other actors which determine the political, economic, legal as well as technological framework within which farmers operate.