Meet Melissa Alamo, a young woman activist working for ILC member, Pakisama, located in the Philippines.
Join us as we learn more about her views on food security and land rights, the role of youth in achieving people-centred land governance and the Sustainable Development Goals, and her experience as a woman activist in her organisation and community.
Food is much bigger than what is on our plates. As young land rights activists: what is good food for you? What role does land rights play in bringing good food to the people?
Melissa: To me, good food means nobody experiencing hunger, that no one is left behind, that all of us have good physical and mental health in our totality as human beings. In order to achieve good food, we need to secure our right to land. Our right to land is our right to food.
By 2030, our youth will be leading communities, organisations and our world.But we cannot wait until then to take action. We need to act now. What is the biggest challenge that youth face to become leaders to advocate for land rights? What do you suggest to overcome the challenge you mentioned?
Melissa: Coming from the perspective of handling the young farmers program in Pakisama and hearing the everyday struggles, the biggest challenge is the lack of access to and control land. From the 11 organizations we work with, around 20% or less really own their land. Young people are highly dependent on their parents, who are farm workers. It is really a struggle to move forward without land rights. Secondly, once I have the land, what should I do? Young people often do not have the resources to cultivate. In the Philippines, if you want to access governmental services for support, you have to register to the national system for the agro-fishery sectors. For young farmers this is really a struggle as one of the requirements is to have a land title. Therefore, they are left behind. Finally, one big limitation is youth’s motivation to be involved in land issues. They not only tend to deviate themselves from their parents’ stories but also struggle to find a mentor, a model that inspires them.
To achieve the SDG land targets (secure land tenure for all by 2030) we must accelerate PCLG. The role of youth is central. What are young people’s main strengths to make this happen and what kind of role that they can play?
Melissa: Youth (people from 15-35 years old in the Philippines) have fresh minds and know how to innovate to make campaigns attractive for different audiences: other young farmers, their parents, their organisations and cooperatives, the government, development partners. Second, they have the ability to use all the digital platforms and the eagerness to explore and find alternatives. During the pandemic it has been a huge struggle to push our land rights campaigns. We, Pakisama, are a national movement and we do our job mostly in the streets through direct action and mobilisation. We need the youth to bring their ideas and innovation to the land rights campaign. Third, the ability to organize themselves and to make the sectors combined (women, indigenous peoples, LGTBI) under a collective voice and a unique banner of being the youth struggling for their future. The eagerness to learn and document their stories is also a big potential. It is very hard to dream that we can organise many of them, but we need to train maybe 5 or 10 dedicated youth and they can inspire others in their struggle for land rights.
You mentioned the importance of having support from and shared spaces with seniors. Regeneration of leadership is a big challenge for many members. How can we build intergenerational bridges in order to sustain our organizations? What do we need for that?
Melissa: I am dealing with senior managers in Pakisama, I am the youngest one. I am 25, the other people on the board are 45 and some in their 60s. My other workmates who are in their 20s resigned because they could not tolerate senior struggles. How do I create my own voice and offer my ideas to improve strategies and plans in my organisation? Senior leaders have their own templates; however, they can be innovated and improved. For me, I can stand where I am now because I do not tolerate being silenced.. How to build bridges? With communication, knowledge sharing and mentoring between generations. You need to have an open mindset to share ideas and listen to the youth. My dream is to find a mentor in the organization who can guide me in my growing process. But if I cannot find one, I will be one. It is not only the older ones who teach the others. It is a two-way learning path.
Youth are speaking up and becoming the biggest voice on key global challenges. ILC youth could join this trend and be part of a global voice in the struggle for land rights. We have launched, for example, the youth fellowship seeking at enabling spaces for ILC youth to raise their voices and strengthen their leadership capacities. How do you see these spaces? How can ILC better help youth to become a stronger voice and eventually a movement in land rights?
Melissa: When I went to Rome to participate in the 34th ILC Council, I realised there were no youth representatives. There should be one in the Council to carry the youth related concerns globally. Also, we need to continue with capacity building programmes such as the ILC fellowship. The question is how can we make it transcend into the grassroot level? For me, it was a great experience to be part of the ILC-Jai Jagat fellowship 2019. That and the other experiences made me stay with PAKISAMA. This was not only a professional thing, it was also a personal journey. It made me realise what my focus is, what and why my motivation is to work with farmers, with youth in rural areas. I want to share my ideas with others. Young people and women are not voiceless, we need to amplify their voices. ILC can also: support young staff from member organisations by, for example, forming a duo “ILC staff-member young staff” as a learning and exchange programme make a concrete framework for the development of global organizations to national organizations have a continued dialogue like the one we are having now. We need to empower those from rural areas to share their experiences in a safe space like this one.
GLF Youth 2022: What youth-related topics would you bring to the table/ discussions?
Melissa: How to achieve the SDGs and our role in that. That was one of the issues we worked on as Jai Jagat fellows, and we need to continue building on that. Also, we need to invite others to participate in the UN Decade of Family Farming, which is an important development framework for all of us. In the Philippines we are working hard on drafting the National Action Plan. The GLF can be a space to share the progress and discuss what more needs to be done. We can do more. Finally, we need to grab this opportunity to have support groups for youth and for young farmers in particular.
On May 4, 2021, three young ILC activists took part in the United Nations Food Systems Summit Global Youth Dialogue - Good Food For All. Winny Chepkemoi (Kenya Land Alliance, Kenya), Melissa Alamo (Pakisama, Philippines) and Neydi Juracan (Comité Campesino del Altiplano - CCDA, Guatemala). The event brought together more than 100 young people from all over the world, who shared their proposals on how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are their stories.