Monday, May 24, 2010

A conversation with marginalised women on the global politics of food

The skyscrapers in the centre of Bogotá become smaller and smaller as our bus winds its way up through the marginalised neighbourhoods of the grand metropolis. These are the neighbourhoods where you will find resting during the day the men who are forced to walk the city at night sifting through the rich mans “rubbish” or the poor mans “recyclable materials”. These are the potholed and unpaved streets owned at night by gangs of young lads, who are used and manipulated by the paramilitaries who have overall contol.

We are heading to the neighbourhood at the very top of the hill, La Estrella, where we work with several groups of women and young people on urban agriculture projects.

The theme for the workshop today is food sovereignty and autonomy, particulary relevent considering the recent signing of the free trade agreement between Colombian and the European Union. We make sense of the terms necessary for then being able to analysise what the radio is saying; imports, exports, dependency, “free” trade, import tariffs.

To be dependent is to be like a slave and have to beg for food.”

We don't want to be dependent on other countries for food because we are rich in products and we should give the opportunities to our producers.”

"free trade sounds pretty but the reality in the global markets is different. The big producers have many benefits while the small producers have none."

We talk about the decision on milk imports. I ask them what they think about the argument on the news that the powdered milk imports will mean that milk prices will drop and more poor children will have better brain nuerons. Olviria replies “it is true, milk is quite expensive at 70p a litre, but it is better that we support our milk producers as there are many many familes that survive from selling milk and what will all their children do?" Cleo adds “What is in this powered milk? Who knows what they will add? Milk fresh from the cow is the best, the healthiest.

This conversation, a practice of popular education, makes me later think about the baby milk scandel, the practice by multinationals of aggressivly promoting powdered milk as better than breast milk to health care practioners and new mothers around the world. As far as I know this has not affected Colombia. Women here breast feed.

With imported powered milk now allowed in to Colombia in much greater quantities will it be followed by this manipulative life endangering practice?

1 comment:

busybee said...

The chief officer of Tesco, the huge English Supermarket, says that we should stop thinging "village England" I think he means we should stop wanting small shops, stocking local produce, where staff and customers know each other. He wants Tesco to expand into other countries like China and Thailand. Their treatment of small scale Thai traders caused me to stop shopping at Tesco, and I returned my Tesco loyalty card.