Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Thousand Movement: Srilankan tea plantation workers protest in 30 locations for better daily wages

The Thousand Movement, a collective of unions and grassroots activists who want to increase the daily basic salary of an estate worker to Rs. 1000, held demonstrations in 30 locations country-wide calling on Plantation Companies to grant the just demand, Chinthaka Rajapakshe, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR).

The demonstrators also requested the three major estate sector unions, Lanka Jathika Estate Workers Union (LJEWU), Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), and Joint Plantation Trade Union Centre (JPTUC,) that sign the Collective Agreement with the Ceylon Employers’ Federation (CEF), representing the Plantation Companies to not reach a fresh agreement until the Employers agree to pay Rs 1000 as the daily basic salary of workers.

“From what we know the CEF wants to increase the basic salary to Rs. 625 and the three unions want to increase it to 675. Both are not acceptable to the workers. We also want to apply pressure on the three unions to hold the line,” he said.

More photos are available here

Rajapakshe said that most Plantation Companies made significant profits but they portray themselves as loss making concerns. “A few months ago CWC held a seven day protest during the political crisis in the country and the CEF stated that the plantation companies made a loss of Rs. 1.75 billion in those seven days. In other words, these companies make Rs 250 million a day. Thus it is impossible for them to make losses. Moreover when tea prices are low the government gifts them massive amounts of money as subsidies, so they are always in the green, so to speak,” he said.

Collective agreements between CEF and plantation sector unions are signed once in two years. The daily wage of an estate sector worker was increased to Rs 500 in the agreement signed in 2016. Another Rs 230 is paid as an allowance for workers if they fulfill certain criteria.

“For example a person needs to report for duty 75% of the time to get the allowances. There are around 147 000 estate workers and almost 60% don’t report for duty 75% of the time. Moreover EPF and ETF is calculated on the basic salary. Recently researchers from the University of Peradeniya found that Rs 27,707 is needed per month for one person in the estate sector to meet his or her basic needs. But on average these workers get paid less than Rs. 8000 a month,” he said.

Recommended reading: 1,000 Flowers in Estates

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Pakistan: One tenant killed by security guards of Army Welfare Trust at Depalpur

Statement issued by Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee

Thousands protested on 13th January 2019 against the killing at Bail Gunj agriculture farm run by Army Welfare Trust. The protest took place in front of District police officer at Pakpattan, demanding the registration of a murder case for killing Shamshad , a tenant. (Watch video)

On 12 January, the security guards of Army Welfare Trust opened direct fire on protesting tenants against removal of a electricity transformer that was the lifeline for the agricultural land cultivated by tenant farmers.

One person was killed, 16 others injured, among them one in critical condition.

This is the latest incident in a series of repression of the tenants since 2001, who have been working for over a century on army controlled agri farms and has long been demanding rights over their land.

Over 14 tenants have lost their lives in such incidents. No one responsible for killing these tenants was ever convicted. On the contrary, the normal practice is that murder charges are registered against the leaders of Anjman Mozareen Punjab, the organisation that is leading the campaign for land rights. AMP is one important member of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC).

Over 1900 tenants have been arrested since 2001, nearly 200 of them are peasant women. Hundreds of false criminal cases have been registered against the tenant leaders, three are still in jail including the popular leader Mehar Abdul Sattar, who is now serving a 10 years jail sentence just for the “crime” of organising a demonstration. Another peasant leader Younas Iqbal is also in jail on a false case of dacoity.

The movement is not dying down despite all the repression.

Most of the tenants at Okara Military Farms have refused to pay the crop share to the administration claiming that military in not owner of this land, a claim now accepted by the Okara Military Farms administration. It is Punjab government that owns nearly 28000 acre of agriculture land in Okara and Pakpattan.

At present, the National Commission of Human Rights is dealing a case of gross violation of human rights at the these farms. Latest killing of a tenant adds to the wounds of the poor tenants who are demanding that the 12 acre of land given to them over a century earlier under their cultivation be given to them.

On 9th January 2019, a 14 members Tenants Solidarity Committee (TSC) was established at the office of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan including leading human rights activists. It included representatives of Okara Military Farms, Khanewal Seed Farms and also from civil society organisations including Farooq Tariq, General Secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee.

After establishing this committee, a counter attack against this initiative was taken at Okara. The tenants leaders whose release were made possible by people’s efforts, were forced by intelligence agencies to address a press conference at Okara Press Club against establishment of this TSC).

Now a new incident of killing of a young tenant has sparked a new wave of mass movement by the peasants this time at Pakpattan.

We demand the arrest of all those responsible for the killing, land rights for all tenants, military out of agri business and land to the tillers.

ALSO READ: After Decades of Farmers’ Struggles, Pakistan Army Admits It Does Not Own Farm Land

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Agroecology workshop for young farmers of LVC South Asia at Amritabhoomi, Karnataka

La Via Campesina South Asia, in its efforts to develop a cadre of young leaders that can take up work on agroecology in the region, recently concluded a regional agroecology youth training camp from Dec 14th to 20th at Amritabhoomi Centre in the southern State of Karnataka, India.

Young farmers from India, Srilanka, Nepal and Bangladesh actively participated in the week-long training. The participants got to learn about the basics of Natural farming and took part in hands on learning in the field, visited model ecological farms and visited the Andhra Pradesh state programme to learn about its agroecology transition program. The training camp was designed to accommodate class room training, participatory hands on learning, experiential sharing and field exposure visits.

The participants discussed on a variety of issues affecting agriculture today; agrarian distress, young people moving away from farming, migration, corporate takeover of seeds and natural resources, impact of free trade agreements, advent of chemical and mechanized farming in the global south, unemployment among youth and so forth. Role of agroecology and its importance to social movements, historical importance of agroecology in the struggles of Via Campesina, popular examples such as the Cuban agrarian reform, Brazil’s agroecological cooperative model promoted by MST and Indian Natural Farming models were discussed. Afsar Jafri from Focus on the Global South India office and Ashlesha Khadse from Amritabhoomi were the resource persons.

Participants were also engaged in practical lessons, they learnt and exchanged information regarding preparations of beejamrutha, jeevamrutha, ghana jeevamrutha, agniastra and other preparations used in natural farming. They also learnt about dry land horticulture and different techniques of grafting in horticulture crops. Classes were also conducted on various seed saving techniques.

The training part at Amritabhoomi concluded with a felicitation ceremony for Mr.Rechanna and family by young farmers of South Asia, one the senior seed savers of KRRS who initiated a revolution among farmers by saving more than thousand varieties of rice, vegetables and pulses. In the closing mystica the young farmers took pledge to continue and take forward the legacy and work of people like Rechanna and hundreds of other seed savers.

Participants visited the 5 layer ZBNF model farm of Mr. Abhinava Ravikumar near Magadi and to Arehalli Rajegowda's natural coffee plantation near Hassan. Participants also visited Anantpur, in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), to witness several agroecological farms and the transition to to Natural Farming that is now being promoted by the State. The team of APZBNF and AF ecology centre of Ananthapur gave presentations, explaining the state policy and its ongoing implementation.

At the end of the training session, the young farmers concluded that only Agroecology can liberate farmers and attract more youth. They committed to take learning of natural farming back to their respective communities and work towards promoting agroecology among the farmers groups in their countries.
Bountiful harvest from Amritabhoomi campus

Hasiru Shaalu/Green Shawl - Symbol of peace, hardwork and resistance 

Opening Mistica by Amritabhoomi team

Young farmer sharing his dreams on agroecological farming 

Avinash, the master trainer on ZBNF led the training session on basics of Natural farming, he dealt with various models and key principles of  ecological agriculture. His session was mainly focused on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) module and on the key elements involved in ZBNF.

Preparation of Beejamrutha

Preparation of Jeevamrutha


Preparation of Ghanajeevamrutha

Preparation of Agniasthra (natural pesticide)

Training on grafting techniques by Shivakumar

Training on types of Mulching 

Campfire dance for Soliga tribe songs

Dr. Rechanna, Seed saver and senior activist of KRRS 

Rechanna's family- Rechanna's son Abhilash is a proud natural farmer and indigenous seed saver

The team- 'Youth For Agroecology'

With representatives of APZBNF programme at AF Ecology Centre, Ananthapur 

 Field visit in Ananthapur district to see the APZBNF program on ground 

At Timbaktu Collective

At Abhinava Ravikumar's ZBNF farm near Magadi, Bengaluru

Arehalli Rajegowda's natural coffee plantation

I am part of women vegetable growers collective in ANPFa, I already knew about Palekar krishi through one of our comrades who attended ZBNF training in India. This training has helped me to learn ZBNF model in a more detailed manner. I want to go back and train our women on all the new things that I have learned here.
- Baghbathi Bista, ANPFa

I love nature and I always wanted to lead my life with nature and over the days I have learnt that only by doing farming you can get closer to nature. Last month I have  got a job appointment as a teacher, but I am not going to accept it as I want to take up full-time farming. I am already into ecological farming and  conserving paddy and mango varieties at my farm. I was looking forward to visit India for this training as I wanted to learn more about the Zero budget natural farming, this training will be of great help to continue my journey as a farmer. Also I am part of a team of young people who have come together to develop a agroecology farm and we look forward to teach about ZBNF to more youth and bring them to the agroecology.
-Raika Saman, Srilanka

 I started my career as a Java developer in the corporate sector before turning into an activist. When I became part of MONLAR, my exposure to agroecology and global agrarian politics made me take up farming. Agroecology is the only solution to all the problems in agriculture.  
– Anuka De Silva

I am part of agriculture workers organization,  I have been seeing the ill impacts and side effects of chemical farming on our people as they are directly exposed to this deadly chemicals and have suffered serious health damages. Agroecology is the real solution for all the problems created by chemical farming.- Sharmien Akther Moyna, BAFLF