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Grassroots communities respond to global food crisis

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Two weeks ago, on 15 November 2008, more than a hundred Malaysians from all walks of life, and particularly from the grassroots sectors of plantations, fisher folk, farmers, small producers, and concerned Malaysians representing either themselves or various NGOs, academicians and some government bodies historically gathered to express the direct impact of the global food crisis on their lives and to share with us their thoughts, and opinions on how we, together as Malaysians, can lessen this impact and overcome the challenges it poses.

This historic gathering/forum was aptly entitled “Global Food Crisis – A Malaysian Response”.  We recognised that in today’s world environment, “No person is an Island’ and that global impacts will also impact us Malaysians and we cannot be isolated from it. The objectives of the forum were:

  • To uphold and advocate the fundamental rights of the grassroots to sustenance by providing a platform where their voices can be heard, supported by analysis and civil society;
  • Make visible the demands of the grassroots so that policies that guarantee their fundamental rights to food will be drawn up, thereby providing them with the necessary means for decent livelihood and dignity.

During the forum, the participants and particularly the grassroots surprised the organisers by providing real and honest insights to their daily lives and how the food crisis impacts their lives. They not only voiced their concerns but also clearly voiced their proposed actions on how we can collectively make ordinary Malaysians more resilient to the crisis. Their proposals included:

  • Changes and adaptations that each Malaysian can make.
  • Changes and adaptations that corporations, NGOs and group organisations can make.
  • Changes and “impetus” that the government (our elected representatives) can make, in particular to policies, guidelines and laws
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What was most pleasing to hear at the forum was that the grassroots clearly expressed a desire to be ‘heard’ by their elected representatives, who often, due to traps of their “political needs and expectations”, did not raise the issues and concerns of the ordinary folks. They chose to follow the “voice” of their political leaders, mavericks and masters rather than the needs of their constituents.

Thus, we today have come to this noble House of Parliament, our “House of Voice”, to strengthen, support and hopefully embolden our elected representatives to bring out our ‘voices” to the floor of the Parliament, irrespective of race, religion, culture and political affiliation. We are hoping that by our efforts and our recommendations, all our MPs will feel liberated by the genuine efforts of us, ordinary Malaysians, and will do the needful to regulate and to enforce laws that will encourage and promote the growth and spirit of all Malaysians – in particular to the availability of healthy food at affordable prices to all levels of Malaysians, so that we can afford to live a sustainable life with dignity.

The above is press statement by the Joint Action Forum on Food Crisis (JAFFC) on 27 November 2008 in conjunction with handing over of declaration to parliamentarians

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