FOOD Report

FOOD Report

*Human Suffering Should Never be an Ingredient in the Food we Eat*

ISLAMABAD – Behind the food we buy are millions of people who grow, catch and process it, passing it along a supply chain until it ends up in our homes. But in a global food industry worth trillions of dollars, far too many of the women and men behind our food are being forced into lives of hardship and suffering, working long hours in inhumane conditions for little reward. Oxfam in Pakistan has published a report “Living Income Gap in Rice Value Chain” to highlight the challenges women growers and workers are facing to sustain the quality standards of rice; while receiving low farm gate prices and facing health and hygiene issues at the farm level.
In Pakistan, much of the population lives in rural areas and sustains its livelihood from agriculture, especially rice farming. Oxfam sees rice as an important and strategic commodity, both in Asia and worldwide. In Pakistan, rice farming is a key source of income for smallholder producers and their families, especially women.  However, hundreds of farmers and workers who produce our food are forced to work long hours in inhumane conditions. The burden of this injustice falls more heavily on women, who are discriminated against, paid less than men, and denied the same basic human and legal rights.
Oxfam in Pakistan’s Country Director, Syed Shahnawaz Ali said, “Most workers and farmers interviewed by Oxfam for our report do not earn a decent living wage or income. Some do not even earn a monthly minimum wage. In Pakistan, the Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia (GRAISEA) program is working to ensure respect for human rights and inclusion of small-scale producers in Asian agricultural value chains. Our aim is that supermarkets take their record sales as an opportunity to create a more sustainable and resilient global food supply chain – to genuinely put hard policies and action behind improving and respecting women across their supply chains.”
The GRAISEA program seeks to achieve transformed opportunities for marginalized men and women in the agricultural sector, through inclusive rice value chains and business models that drive women’s economic empowerment and climate resilience. Based on the recognition that financial viability and gender equitable and sustainable supply chains are not mutually exclusive, the project aims to promote win-win-win partnerships between rice growing communities, small-scale producers and larger businesses. The program combines partnerships between small scale producers and front running private companies, with regional and global advocacy on responsible business conduct towards governments, the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN), multi-stakeholder initiatives and Asian agribusiness.
The report includes stories of women rice growers and the challenges they face when it comes to receiving fair wages. Agriculture is considered the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and employs 36.66% of Pakistan’s labor force of which 65.26% are females. Though female participation in agriculture has increased; policies, plans and investment do not support these women for attaining their rights. Oxfam is supporting men and women smallholder farmers in building their capacity to participate in agriculture value chains and benefit fairly from economic opportunities.
Oxfam in Pakistan has established 25 Grower Organizations (30% Farm Workers) and raised awareness on Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), introduced efficient rice farming methods and technologies to reduce the cost of production and has organized rice growers with 60% women representation. These women have taken up executive roles within grower organizations in Punjab. They are engaging with government actors and coordinating with civil society organizations and NGOs to influence national policy frameworks to drive inclusive business models that support women’s economic empowerment. We refuse to accept that exploitation and poverty should play any part in getting food to our supermarket shelves. Together, we can make sure the big supermarket chains put a stop to it for good.