Land is Life

21 04 2009

Land is life.  If you take it away, is it not the same as dying? Then why not die for your land?

(pictures to come soon)

Before shopping for laundry soap and chinelas, I had the taxi drop me off in front fo the House of Representatives in Manila.  In front of the gate, on both sides, Members of BAYAN-ST (New Patriotic Alliance in Southern Tagalog, Amihan (National federation of Peasant Women), KMP (Peasant movement in the Philippines, and  Kasama TK (The Southern Tagalog regional peasant organization of KMP)  had set up a protest camp.

The protest camp was built relatively quick on April 13th.  Within 15 minutes both sides of the camp was built like a treehouse-slim tall logs held the structure up as strips of garbage bags were used to tie the logs that held the structure up with the tarps that acted as the roof.

As I arrived to the Camp, I was greeted with smiles from youth to elders.  Their hands were rough from working the Palay fields (rice fields).  Their clothes were very simple, some with holes and some faded.  They spoke of why they set up camp and what they hope to accomplish.

I had the opportunity to interview different peasant leaders, many of them were women.  Nanay Carmen shared her life with me through gestures of her body, limited and broken english, but mostly in tagalog and kapampagan. From the beginning her eyes water.  I can see my reflection gazing into her eyes.  She is the daughter of small peasants.  After finishing elementary school she was forced to watch the carabaos on her family farm although she prefered to continue her education.

Nanay Carmen also shared with me the struggles that peasants face. Their livelihood taken away as they face poverty while those who exploit them profit off the peasants’ labor.  Nanay Carmen helps peasant women organize to fight for their right to livelihood.  Most of the peasant women who struggle come to her for help. Her story is not unique-many share her story-the majority of the Filipino people are landless, some gave up hope and others’ fight back like Ninay.  She is fierce and passionate that one day her people will be free from oppression.

I was intending to only stay for 1 hour in the camp-just to say Hello and catch-up however my stay ended up to be 9 hours.  The peasants wanted to ask me questions but they do not know how… We tried to communicate with simple language but there was frustrations from both sides.. Read the rest of this entry »

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Three Gorges Dam: Up the Yangtze and China’s Peasantry

14 04 2009

I was inspired to write this topic because another friend, Da had posted a blog about the environmental damages and affects of crops and livelihood of those who live near Kawabe River in Japan.  With the broad support of those within cities, the people were able to shut down the construction of the dam.

3 Gorgeous DamIn China, the 3 Gorges Dam was finished in 2008 on the Yangtze river despite the environmental impacts and broad support against the project.  The Chinese government had promised the 13,000 farmers affected along the Yangtze river relocation money but because of scandals and corruptions, they never saw their money.  More than 1 million Chinese peasants were displaced because of the project.

China, during the time of Mao and before his death, the level of education of peasants rose tremendously and the average life expectancy had doubled.  This is because education and health care was made available to those without the access and resources.  According to Dr. Pao Yu,

China is a large but resource poor and environmentally fragile country. It has very limited arable land and resources, which has to support a large population. Throughout Chinese long history, its people have suffered through many natural disasters such as flooding and draught. The reason behind the collectivization of agriculture was the understanding that Chinese people have to resolve the problem of poorly endowed natural resources and the fragile environment collectively. The strategy of development during the socialist period was that China’s rural areas and Chinese peasants had to be develop together with urban areas; peasants’ health, education and general living conditions had to be improved as much as possible together with that of the workers and other urban dwellers. Base on the alliance between workers and peasants, China before the Reform went a long way in advancing agricultural production and modernization by preserving and improving the land and the environment. That model of development was proven to be sustainable in the long-term. Read the rest of this entry »