Farmers are not lazy [Documentary discussion]
🌾 Petani Bukan Pemalas (Farmers are not lazy) is a 17 mins documentary directed by Nurfitri Amir, a prominent activist and a paddy researcher produced by Freedom Film Festival 2020 in collaboration with Third World Network, Goethe Institut, EU, the Netherlands, and Pertubuhan Persaudaaraan Pesawah Malaysia (PeSAWAH). Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar representing KAMY had the opportunity to moderate the premiere discussion with the filmmaker Nurfitri Amir and the farmer himself, Azhar Hashim.
Background of speakers
Nurfitri Amir is a paddy researcher at IDRIS Association and the secretary of PeSAWAH. He is also the coordinator of Padi Rescue and Forum Kedaulatan Makanan Malaysia (Food Sovereignty Forum Malaysia). Azhar Hashim is a paddy farmer from Alor Pongsu, Kerian, Perak. He is an EXCO from PeSAWAH.
Paddy Farmer's plight
Farmer's struggles became even more prominent with the increasingly warming climate that brings not only extreme weather but also a multiplicator of other inequities the farmers already facing.
The expensive commercial seeds monopolised by corporations undermines food sovereignty and food security.
Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems
La via Campesina
According to Azhar and other farmers in PeSAWAH, paddy seeds produced by corporations under Skim Benih Padi Sah (SBPS) is not only expensive but its quality is questionable. They found that these seeds include weeds which interferes with the growth of rice seeds, and subsequently lower paddy yield and thus affecting the income and socio-economy of farmers.
The seed scheme is a quality certification system set by the government to produce and supply rice seeds for the purpose of cultivation according to set standards. Under this scheme, only producers appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry are eligible to apply for the scheme.
Small paddy farmers like Azhar have begun producing their own seed whose qualities are ensured by the farmer themselves through age-old selection techniques.
Azhar shared that small farmers like him are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Seeds monopolized by corporations are low quality and expensive as it comes with additional fertilizers and insecticides, but the small farmers require more resources to producing their own paddy seeds. This situation is made worse as the farmers began questioning why corporations under SBPS received subsidies to produced low-quality seeds. Azhar through PeSAWAH argued that small farmers producing high-quality seeds should be given subsidies and incentives to lessen the cost and thus increase paddy yield and improve the farmer's welfare such as financial safety net and safety against herbicide.
In the warming climate, farmers face increasing extreme weather conditions such as prolonged droughts and flooding crisis. Seed monopoly is one of the many issues that will lower Malaysia's current 70 % rice self-sufficiency level (SSL), among the lowest in the Southeast Asian region. Seed monopoly reduces paddy variety risking the global paddy market.
CSOs and paddy NGOs will continuously seek justice and speak out against the "farmers are lazy" stigma being perpetuated to undermined the farmer's struggles against multinational and national corporations.
✊🌾 Please support our farmers, share their stories and buy local products.
Third World Network
‘Forum Kedaulatan Makanan Malaysia’.