Perempuan dan Kedaulatan Pangan

Agroecology As an Opportunity to Reclaim Women’s Sovereignty: A Feminist Perspective

Arieska Kurniawaty

Program Officer on Women’s Sovereignty against Free Trade and Investment

National Secretariat Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights)




Previously, agricultural system in Indonesia is a very traditional farming system that preserve ecosystem and value of local wisdom carried out collectively by the community. In this traditional system, obtain the roles division between men and women. Wherein women are actively present in all productive spaces, not just those typically relegated to women such as reproduction. Activities such as seed selection and management of paddy crops always entrusted to women. Practices over years, women’s knowledge and experiences are able to sustain the natural resources for food production.

In coastal communities, women are also encompassing all activities along the value chain (pre-harvest and post-harvest). Not only in the production phase, women also can be seen on the traditional market as sellers and buyers. Lot of homemade food products are managed by women. And women have an important role in securing the family’s food; and they are responsible for providing water as well. Women’s work load is heavier than men’s. Solidaritas Perempuan’s research on Cilincing (Jakarta coastal areas), shows fact that coastal women’s work approximately 18 hours per day, compared to men who work an average 10 hours per day. Women are present in housekeeping activities, and are responsible for: taking care of children, the sick and the elderly. Despite their vital contributions, women are greatly not recognized and oppressed.

The System Changed, Not More A Culture But Business

The traditional agricultural system considered not effective and efficient more to fulfill people needs so it replaced with modern agricutural system to stimulate increased production. Land were forced to reach more harvest in the shortest time possible. And peasants trapped with systemic way in a technology that they can not created by themselves. They are encouraged to use agricultural technologies through subsidies which funded by debt funds. And these technologies mostly difficult to access by women, so they become marginalized.

This situation worsened in the era of “popular” President Jokowi. Though in the regulation already mention the term FOOD SOVEREIGNTY, but this term only be interpreted as self-sufficiency that will be achieved through increased food production. This is not oriented to the realization of food sovereignty and prosperity for food production especially women. All the more so, this increase is driven in agribusiness, so the government will prioritize the production of large-scale monoculture with the seeds and chemical fertilizer massively used. It will marginalizing the role of small-scale food producers, where the women is a greater role in this sector. And for this ambition, government of Indonesia involves the Military Army in order to be agricultural extension. The food sector, as with many others, is being colonized by the logic of capitalist production in the necessary search for accumulation.

Agroecology As an Opportunity

Agroecology accepts ecological and sociocultural biodiversity and recognizes and values diverse kinds of knowledge that differ from the dominant scientific ideology-such as the traditional knowledge and techniques of farmers. Furthermore, agroecology considers alternative assumptions based upon holistic, systematic, contextualizing, subjective and pluralist knowledge and skills (Norgaard and Sikor 53-62). Thus, the practical knowledge and skills of traditional cultures —such as indigenous and rural farmers— respected as a sovereign.

Agroecology can be an instrument for women to reclaim their sovereignty, as long as women’s work is recognized and valued. This means challenging patriarchal relations that give privilege to men over women. It implies consideration and discussion of power relationships, as well as measures to gain control over power sources. Women acknowledge and value themselves, which in turn leads to collective changes because women in the community support each other. Together they build dialogue and redefine values and norms. At the same time they develop new values, new ways of relating with the other and with life itself. And with this, they gain strength to change the social order, be it in productive, reproductive, public, or private spaces.

We believe women’s empowerment in family agriculture entails their recognition as citizens as well as acknowledging and recognizing their work and, particularly, their lives; it means experiencing an external and an internal process in which women may realize the importance of their work and that their lives have meaning; it means that together they can struggle for better living conditions; it means feeling power within them and using that power to choose and have their opinions respected; and it means having autonomy and self-esteem, and the power to change their own lives.

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