Firms overlook the hands that feed

Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sun, 03/20/2011 2:24 AM |

Limbuk, a housewife and farmer in Sepaso Induk village in East Kutai, East
Kalimantan, works 13 hours a day tending to her family’s rice paddy and
corn fields. She protects her crops from pests, mostly monkeys and wild

Her husband and four children, have something else to do.

Limbuk also plaits baskets to sell and prepares the meals for the family.
When it comes to family business, she takes most of the responsibility.

However, she, like other women in her village, is left out of any
decisions regarding the future.

Her house sits two kilometers away from a giant coal mine. The mine
operator is excavating large pits, one of them to be located in the

The firm, however, only invited male villagers to discuss their pending
relocation. It also brought some of the men to Jakarta. Upon their return,
the men did not share what they discussed in Jakarta.

Limbuk’s story is recounted in a chapter of Women in natural resources and
environment management.

Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) of gender, food security and nutrient
division expert Ikeu Tanzih said women were increasingly marginalized in
the presence of extractive companies, from mining to palm oil plantations.

“Extractive industries are not friendly to women. The companies limit
women’s access to land for farming,” she said.

The firms also impede their access to clean water, she added.

She said the women also received unfair treatment from their husbands,
particularly those hired by the company.

A study by Ikeu found housewives from low-income families were more
responsible for food, education and housing compared to the husbands.

The study said women played a role as the family’s breadwinners, managing
natural resources and creating income. The study also showed 74 percent of
households relied on the women for their meals.

“Low-income families are prone to food crises if agricultural policies
continue to ignore gender issues.”

A report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1995 said women
produced more than 50 percent of the food for the world.

Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) activist Khalisah Khalid said
women had a wealth of local knowledge in preparing food for families, but
their roles were never acknowledged in the community.