Saturday, October 22, 2016

La Via Campesina South Asia Holds Regional Meeting in Nepal

September 10-15, 2016 in Balthali, Nepal, the South Asian region of La Via Campesina held our regional meeting. All Nepal Peasants Federation was the host of the meeting. Representatives from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India contributed by sharing our struggles against agribusiness and neoliberalism. We also benefitted from contributions over Skype from comrades from Pakistan.

FIELD VISIT: Farmers from a women-led cooperative farm
In the context of Nepal, the movement for food sovereignty and agrarian reform is particularly relevant. A highly diverse country with many caste and ethnic groups, Nepal is a landlocked country which is in its first decades of democracy. After fighting against monarchy, Nepal’s people are in the process of constructing democracy. However, many acute crises such as high levels of youth out-migration, agricultural land fragmentation, political volatility, natural disasters such as the 2015 Earthquake, and economic disasters such as the Indian “earthquake” (blockade) are still faced by the people. Even so, strides forward for agrarian reform and food sovereignty are being taken. Nepal is one of the handful of countries with food sovereignty in the constitution, and largely speaking, as a hilly country, the ravages of agribusiness have not penetrated very deeply. And as the country with the second most water resources in the world, Nepal is well situated to provide agricultural livelihoods not only for itself but for other South Asian countries as well.

LVC member organizations and ally organizations took the time to share updates from each country, have debates on the urgent actions to take forward on many of our working collectives and themes, and prepare for the 6th Global Conference.

Alongside our permanent international themes of struggle, we added a few themes which are especially relevant in our region. We had two special discussions - one on livestock and dairy, and another on caste discrimination. 
FIELD VISIT: Dairy cooperative in Baltali, Nepal

Livestock and dairy cannot be separated from other agricultural issues. Livestock and dairy are the major income assurances besides agricultural production for small and marginal farmers, and inputs from livestock (manure and urine) are key for agroecological production. LVC movements and allies agreed to take several steps regarding livestock and dairy: fight against FTAs related to milk, dairy, and food; support indigenous breeds and lobby government to only support indigenous breeds; fight against dumping; ensure that milk which is made from milk powder is labeled as such; defend grazing rights as community rights.

Working group on Land, Water, and Territories
As far as the working group on caste discrimination, peasant leaders articulated the urgent and integral need to eliminate all forms of cate violence. Peasant movements can be a part of this fight by ensuring that we take up issues of Dalit and adivasi communities, especially Dalit and adivasi women, as peasant issues. We can also ensure Dalit and adivasi leadership at all levels of our movements, and maintain constant evaluation of these issues within our movements. As leader Lal Bahadur from ANPFa shared, "Nothing short of a cultural revolution is required to transform the caste system."

LVC South Asia resolved to continue our struggle on our common platforms of agroecology and seed sovereignty, rights to natural resources, rights for migrant and waged workers, public policies for food sovereignty, and for pro-people economics.

Monday, October 17, 2016

No Revolution without Women

Karnataka Women Making Inroads into the Farmers Movement 
October 2016

KRRS Women's meeting in Bengaluru on 15th October

KRRS women are coming to the forefront of the farmers movement. “We don’t want a ‘women’s wing’, or a ‘women’s section’ inside KRRS. Such so called ‘wings’ become nothing more than a group upon which women’s issues are piled upon; ignored for all other decisions. We want equal participation in the state committee leadership, it is the only way. We already have many strong women leaders and thousands of women in the grassroots, it’s time to make it official”, paraphrased Chukki Nanjundaswamy from the proceedings of women’s meeting in Bangalore on 15 October. 

Women leaders turned up from 17 of 25 districts of Karnataka. “We sent out a call to action, but were shocked to see so many who have already attained leadership positions in their districts, eager to lead the movement, and others that have future potential,” said Nandini of Mandya district. It’s the first time in its thirty five years that KRRS has so many women at the official state level leadership. Earlier there were just two token positions at the state level, the recent meeting demonstrated otherwise.

Kavitha, a young widow of a farmer who committed suicide in Hassan, said “In a superstitious society like ours, a widow like me is seen as a curse, she is avoided, left alone, no one wants me around. When KRRS called and asked me to take a lead, I was touched; they are my sisters and brothers.” It was through KRRS actions that Kavitha and others received government compensation for the farmer suicides in their families.  

“The government ignored us, didn’t give us the little that was rightfully ours. We waited for months at the state offices. Only when KRRS came, were they forced to react, and paid us in one week. I want to fight for other women like me, and for the farming community,” she said.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Agroecology: Youth will be the change!

Youth will be the change 

15 days/3 month Intensive course on agroecology with rural youth at Amrita Bhoomi, 

     Youth are leaving agriculture. Our agonizing countryside doesn’t exactly paint a rosy picture to build a life upon. Their parents encourage them to go to the city, take up a white-collar job -‘we don’t want our children to suffer like us,’  they say. Yet many rural youth experience that visceral pull to the land. They want, like their forefathers, to live in the countryside. They want to focus on the success stories instead of the misery. The city doesn’t really excite them, some of them have already tried their hand at IT or engineering. They know it's possible to come back to the land, but they just don’t know how to start.

     It is to encourage such rural youth that Amrita Bhoomi along with outstanding Baduku Community College is carrying out an intensive and profound life-changing course on sustainable agriculture. But this is not just a theoretical or technical course on practices. This 15-day course, spread over 3 months, begins with an exploration of the ‘self’ as a farmer - it asks the students to go deep into their hearts and histories to ask who they are in society- What is their position? What caste are they? What is their gender? what are the power relations that lie behind all these relations. Are they privileged? Are they the oppressor or the oppressed? What does it mean to be a farmer? What disasters have their own farming families been hit by? Most of them have never asked such questions of looked at how they form part of the larger society or its structures, and how they themselves can also be the change.

     The 25-odd students of the course came from such a diversity of backgrounds, classes, castes that it was an emotional, intensive and a deep bonding experience. Only 1 woman participated, mainly because of the course timings that ran late into the evening and against their families comfort levels. There are plans to bring out a women-only course in the future set to their convenience. About 5 students were of urban origin--they quit their city jobs to move to the countryside for good.  

    The students lived on the Amrita Bhoomi campus for a week during this first phase of the course. The other sections of the course are called ‘perspectives’ and ‘skills’- the first is a historical Perspective of agriculture in India. It deals with pre-colonial agriculture, the impact of colonialism and advent of cash crops, the changes post independence, green revolution, trade liberalization, and ongoing current agrarian crisis and its facets. The Skills section focuses on practices of agroecology--observation of the land, plants, seed production, water conservation, crop cycles, microbial mixtures with cow dung and local ingredients. They learn to observe nature, they learn these skills as art and passion, not just through the scientific technical lens.

    The day started with some ‘seva’ or service - they had to work in the kitchen, clean the showers and toilets, work on the farm, and dedicate some time daily to keep the machine running. The day ended with movies, song or dance. 

   Now the students are home for a month. They have been asked to practice at least 3 of the skills acquired on a section of their parents' lands and come back with the lessons that the earth teaches them. They will use their new found epiphanies to look at their world in a new way, one where they have the power to change their own realities.

     “Our families are against us doing this course, they really don’t want us to come back to the land,” expressed many students. The main struggle for them starts at home, "but we are determined."
    “They are very idealistic and romantic, but we will see over the next three months how they fare,” said Ramesh, the main farmer-trainer from Baduku college.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Letter from ICCFM to the Ministry on Licensing guidelines and formats for GM Technology Agreements

Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Road No. 2, A – 87, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, India
Tel:+91-9899435968 ; Email: 
                                                                                                                            Date: 25/07/2016
Shri D.S. Misra 
Deputy Commissioner (QC)
Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare,
Room No.B/116, 2nd Floor,
Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi.

Dear Mr. Misra,
We are a network of farmers’ organizations in India, comprising of farmers movements from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra.
We, hereby, submit Comments by Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements on:

The Direct effects of Monsanto’s high royalties, faulty technology and monopoly through patents

Prices and royalties of Bt cotton seeds will increase. The Bt Cotton model of revenue extraction will be applied to other seeds, (hybrid & native) and the price of seeds will increase. This would entail more exploitation of already indebted Indian farmers. Plus, there will be increased risks of crop failures as seen recently in Bt cotton failure in Punjab.  The cost of agriculture will go even higher due to patents, royalties and stricter corporate control of Indian agriculture. The seed corporations, which have now become the biotech corporations, want to patent every seed in India so they can profit from every item in our plate and farms. 

Corporations will privatize farmers’ shared “commons”. Monsanto and Bayer are already negotiating terms for a merger. The deal would create one of the biggest agribusiness business monopolies in the world and a global exploitive seed and chemical empire.

If this trend of patenting is encouraged, then the day is not far when our traditional knowledge will become patentable and corporations will profit for India’s indigenous knowledge. 
India will enter a new age of food and seed imperialism which will be controlled by US corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Cargill. 
India will lose its sovereignty and heed to the demands of corporations on issues of IPRs, Biodiversity and Farmers’ Rights. 

1. We reject all patents on our seeds, our biodiversity and our life.
Seed is life and farmers as traditional seed breeders they have the rights to their biodiversity. Our Biodiversity Heritage is our 'collective commons'.

2. The farmers have rights to reliable and affordable seed. It is the duty of the government to protect farmers’ right to livelihood and right to life. It is the government’s duty under Art 21 of the constitution to protect the life of all its citizens. The Cotton Seed Price Control Order issued by the Government of India needs to be seen in the context of farmer’s rights.

3. IPRs, patents, royalty, and technology fees collected by Monsanto are unjust for it comes in the context of false claims and a failing technology which is costing farmers heavily. It is the duty of Government to act to revoke a patent according to Article 64 and Article 66 of the Indian Patent Act.

4. Traditional knowledge and knowledge systems are our shared property. We reject the hijack our knowledge by corporate agenda and monopoly.

5. We want an end to Monsanto’s monopoly. As farmers, consumers and citizens we have the right to control our market. The government should control of the prices of Bt Cotton seeds and all other seeds. Monsanto must not be allowed to collect illegal and exploitative royalties.  We reject Monsanto's control over our seed prices. The Government has a duty to prevent monopolies being established. This is why we had the MRTP commission earlier, and now the competition commission. The issue of monopoly is before the Competition Commission of India, which has stated that Monsanto has violated Competition laws and there is Prima Facie evidence of monopoly.

6. India should honour the integrity of her people and not bow down to pressure from corporations to amend her Biodiversity Act, Plant Variety Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act.

Yudhvir Singh

Convener, ICCFM


Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BKU Punjab,
KS Puttanaiah

Karnataka RajyaRaithaSangha,Karnataka
Sh Vijay Jawandhia
ShetkariSanghatna Maharashtra

S Kannaiyan
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements

CK Janu

P Raveendranath,
Kerala Coconut Farmers Association

ChukkiNanjundaswamy, Karnataka RajyaRyotSangha, Karnataka

President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu Farmers Association

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Farmer-to-farmer training session on Millets at Amrita Bhoomi | Karnataka, India


b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Farmer_checking_Millet_Seed_-_Copy.jpgAt least 60 farmers, mostly from the neighboring indigenous Soliga community, as well as other small farmers including some urban origin farmers gathered for a farmer-to-farmer training session on millets at the Amrita Bhoomi agroecology center, on 2nd July 2016.
Amrita Bhoomi is linked to the Karnataka State Farmers’ Movement (KRRS for its initials in Kannada language) and is La Via Campesina’s agroecology school in South Asia. 
Successful millet growers, both young and old came to share their experiences and answer questions. This was followed by millet seed distribution to the trainees. Grameena Kutumba, a group that promotes millets and organizes direct farmer to consumer markets, co-organized this training session. They committed to follow up with a farmer to consumer fair early next year to allow trainees at this session to directly sell their produce to consumers.
b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Urban_farmer_gifting_millet_seeds_to_a_Soliga_indigenous_woman_farmer.jpgUrban origin farmers sponsored and gifted packets of millet seeds to the Soliga indigenous farmers. Some members of a local bakery also came by to present millet cookies made by them and showcase different forms of value added food products from millets. 
There are many types of millets- Finger millet, Pearl millet, Foxtail millet, Barnyard millet, Kodo millet etc- all with varying flavors, textures and culinary adaptations. Millets are hailed as a miracle crop. This favorite food of birds, is also one of the world’s healthiest food for humans. It is a crop that can grow naturally without the need for any irrigation, chemicals or fertilizers. Sadly, millets were wiped out of our diets and farms because of the government’s heavy promotion of rice, wheat, sugarcane and other green revolution crops. Millets can resolve not just ecological problems by ending chemical and water use, they also provide income benefits to farmers by greatly reducing their cost of cultivation.
The nutritional profile of millets is by far superior to that of rice or wheat. Millets are high in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and most vitamins. They can alleviate hunger and malnutrition; a major crisis in India, by simply including them in people’s diets and partially replacing polished white rice and over-processed wheat as much as possible. They also have a very low glycemic index thus improving insulin response and fighting diabetes. Millets improve heart health, are high in anti-oxidants andimprove digestive health.
Millet crop residues are an excellent source of fodder too. India’s serious drought crisis has adversely impacted livestock, which are first to die in times of water and fodder scarcity. Millets can grow in drought and also are very nutritious for animals.
Although millets are still a big part of indigenous peoples diets, their consumption among other rural and urban populations has depleted tremendously after polished white rice took over. These days, there is a growing consciousness and demand for millets from consumers due to its great health impacts, but there is not enough production in Karnataka. This is a major reason behind this training session organized by Amrita Bhoomi- to encourage and spread millets among Karnataka’s farmers. Promoting millets is a key campaign for Amrtia Bhoomi and many other activities and fairs are planned through the rest of the year.
Boregowda, a millet grower from Mandya (a region dominated by sugarcane and rice because of the presence of a dam, which is drying up fast) said,

“It was 40 degrees this year, the hottest summer ever, and we had no water or rain. I decided to try to grow millets, and they grew so well, my fields were green without any watering! My neighbors were impressed. So I went to agriculture university scientists to get their opinion and see what they had to say. But I didn’t tell them that I was already growing millets. I asked them if they had any millet seeds and whether I would be able to grow them during this dry spell. The agricultural scientists told me that nothing would grow in this summer, and even if it were to grow, there would be major pest attacks. They advised me to buy various chemicals to spray to fight pests. I later informed them that in fact my millets were already growing and lush and that I didn’t use any water or chemicals! They were surprised.”

There are also challenges in cultivation – birds love millets! If a single farmer grows millets then she would lose most of her crop to birds. This is the reason why millets need to be grown collectively over a large area so the birds have many farms to pick from and not just one. “Millets teach us to come together,” said Yellapa, a farmer teacher from Dharwad, who is part of a millet grower’s collective. The Soliga indigenous farmers said, “we must also share our crops with the birds, our food is not just for humans.” Soliga farmers were the most enthusiastic participants of the training session as they have traditionally grown millets as subsistence crops. 

“There is not even a single millet mill in the entire state of Karnataka! The neighboring Tamil Nadu state government on the other hand has set up processing units in their state. Most of the millets from Karnataka go to Tamil Nadu for processing and then come back here. We have to demand from the Karantaka government that they set up at least two processing plants in the state, one in the north and another in the south of the state. This will really encourage farmers to grow millets.”, said Chukki Nanjundaswamy of Amrita Bhoomi. 

Traditionally millets were processed by hand and a very labor-intensive and time-consuming method. This would really increase costs for consumers. On the other hand, small millet processing units do exist but they lead to major waste- upto 30-40% waste. The more efficient larger mills are more expensive, which is why Amrita Bhoomi is demanding that the state pay for them as a support to farmers who can then collectively grow and process millets.
b_350_0_16777215_00_images_2016-07-06_Millet_Workshop_-_Amritabhoomi.jpgThe UN celebrated 2013 as the international year of Quinoa, a wonderful grain given to the world by the Andean people. The participants concluded that the time had come to also celebrate millets internationally, especially in its various centers of diversity in Africa and Asia, as a crop that can eradicate malnutrition, hunger and resolve many ecological problems. They also stressed that millets need policy support  – not just for farmers but also for consumers. The government should include this nutritious food in public programs such as in public school meals plans, and primary health centers instead of just focusing on pharmaceutical vitamin pills or chemically fortified foods.

by Ashlesha Khadse