Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OPINION: Adoption of the Peasant’s Rights Declaration enriches the human rights system



The approval and adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas represent a historic event for the international human rights system itself, as well as for the peasant communities of the world. This has been a 17-year struggle on the part of La Via Campesina, which, along with allies, has managed to galvanize debate within the United Nations on the role and circumstances of the peasantry.

In full neoliberal offensive, at the end of the 1990s, financial capital wrapped its tentacles even more tightly around the countryside, and the commercialization and financialization of agriculture resulted in dispossession and evictions, an increase in violence and the persecution of peasant communities, the privatization of seeds, slave labour, the destruction of local markets and an increase in hunger and migration, the destruction of nature and pollution, among other scourges.

This neoliberal onslaught deepened the mechanisms of the Green Revolution, increasing its capacity for hoarding and destruction, hand in hand with transgenic technology associated with the massive use of agrotoxics. The only objective: huge profits for transnational companies, but at the cost of serious consequences for humanity.

In the countryside, the concentration and privatization of land, insecure and slave labour, pollution with agrotoxics, and the destruction of millions of hectares of native jungle and forest have increased. As this process progressed, resistance in the countryside grew, which brought along with it the persecution and criminalization of peasants. Violence in the countryside is an element that sustains agribusiness; peasants are murdered and imprisoned, and the reallocation of public resources to agribusiness deprives peasants of access to credit and markets.

Neoliberal propaganda included the idea of the end of history as part of its attempt to depoliticize society.  In the agricultural sphere, the “End of the Peasantry” theory was launched, suggesting that peasant families would disappear, and that only agribusiness was capable of feeding humanity.

In the field of international governance, the international neoliberal lobby promoted new institutions, treaties and agreements that constructed a framework of jurisprudence, which, instead of being anchored in human rights and democracy, is based on the Freedom of financial capital and the shielding of companies from the resistance and struggle of the people. A clear example is the UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants), which is responsible for legitimizing the appropriation of traditional, hereditary knowledge.

Peasant organizations resisted in every corner of the world. The establishment of La Via Campesina exists in this context, bringing to light the struggle for land and against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and free market policies, which have opened the door to corporations on every continent.

As industrial agriculture develops, the global food crisis, as well as the climate crisis, become even more severe. Faced with this situation, La Via Campesina, as well as giving a voice to the resistance, systematizes its proposals and its outlook to give hope. Not only is this not the end of the peasantry, but, on the contrary, the peasantry is part of the possible solution to the crises caused by the capital accumulation dynamics. This is how the debate on food sovereignty began, and the Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform was launched. These debates burst onto the scene of the United Nations World Food Security Council in 1996. The idea was put forward that into order to solve the food crisis, the development and strengthening of peasant and local agriculture is a necessary, and to achieve this, land must be democratized.

In this way, the discussion on peasant rights has always gone hand in hand with proposals on the agrarian policy necessary to overcome the food crisis.

In 2001, an international congress on peasant rights was held in Indonesia, which was coordinated by the Peasant Union of Indonesia (SPI), and in which the need to build a declaration on peasant rights within the United Nations was raised for the first time.

In 2003, at the 4th International Conference of LVC, which was held in Sao Paulo, Brasil, the final declaration stated that: “We will acquire a new commitment to driving the fight for Human and Peasant Rights. As international peasant organizations, we will develop an International Charter of Peasant Rights”. Between 2004 and 2006, together with CETIM and FIAN, paradigmatic cases of violations of peasant rights were verified and documented on all continents.

Intense work in the Human Rights Council

In June 2008, the International Conference on Peasant Rights took place in Jakarta, with the participation of more than a hundred representatives from the organizations that make up La Via Campesina all over the world, and of more than a thousand members of SPI; in the same year, in October, the 5th International Conference of La Via Campesina, held in Mozambique, approved the Charter of Peasant Rights. Propelled by the support of thousands of local struggles, and hundreds of reports documenting violations in rural communities, the challenge began in the United Nations.

This charter, that would later be the starting point for the Declaration, was born directly from the experiences and struggles of peasants all over the world. Because of this, we affirm that the Declaration is a direct representation of this reality and its recognition by the UN.

In 2012, after much hard work, the UN Human Rights Council resolved to create an Intergovernmental Working Group, the mission of which would be to propose to the Council a text declaring the rights of peasants. This Group was chaired by the Plurinational State of Bolivia, supported by South Africa and the Philippines in coordination. Since then, a group of experts has carried out a study on the situation and proposed a text based on the charter of La Via Campesina, adapting the language to the standards of the United Nations.

Bolivia guaranteed a transparent and participatory process in the Council. Over six years, five drafts were modified after each session, taking into account the contributions of States and civil society, the latter of which actively aligned itself with the process, represented by organizations of peasants, artisanal fishers, pastoralists, agrarian workers, indigenous peoples and human rights (HR) organizations, who actively participated with their proposals.

During 2013 and 2014, the debate was taken to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where CLOC LVC, together with FIAN and CELS presented reports on the relationship between the violation of peasant rights in the region and transnational corporations.

On 28 September 2018, the Human Rights Council adopted the declaration, which was voted in by a comfortable margin, and which represented, without a doubt, an important step forward on the part of the human rights system from a pluricultural and humanist perspective. The official report presenting the definitive text highlighted the urgent call of the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, to finalize work on the draft Declaration, “in order to respond to more than a billion people who live in rural areas and who provide a significant proportion of the world’s food”. The report also underlined the support of FAO for the Declaration, considering that it will contribute to the zero-hunger objective and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, helping these people to achieve their potential to overcome the challenges that they face in their day-to-day life.

This process sparked various debates within the United Nations; firstly, on the recognition of the peasantry as a significant, worldwide class, who suffer systematic violations of their rights, and secondly, whether the interests of human rights or the corporate interests of transnationals should take precedence. In this regard, the answer of the Human Rights Council was unmistakeable: Human Rights should prevail, and this Declaration is an essential instrument to allow the establishment of standards and policies in the countryside that guarantee the rights of peasants. The perspective of collective human rights is also an important part of the pluricultural worldview of the system.

Since the beginning, the process was supported by the Latin American integration process, with CELAC itself backing it, as well as GRULAC (Group of Latin American Countries in the United Nations); the G77 later added their support, paving the way for Asia and Africa, where it also received widespread endorsement. As expected, the countries that are most subservient to the interests of transnationals, and that are most imperialistic and colonialist, opposed the process from the beginning: the USA, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan and most of the European Union were unwavering in their negative position.

However, in December 2018, and by a broad majority, the United Nations General Assembly approved and adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.

Brazil and Argentina had given their support throughout the process, but when Macri and Bolsonaro came to power, they moved to abstain; conversely, Mexico, which had expressed misgivings, voted in favour after Andres Manel López Obrador was elected President.

The adoption of the Declaration puts an end to the neoliberal idea of the “end of the peasantry” and strongly calls upon States not just to recognise peasants’ identity, but also their role, and to work to put an end to violations of their rights. This takes place in the context of serious global rural violence, with extreme situations such as that of Colombia, in which, in 2018, 105 peasant leaders and 44 indigenous leaders were killed, or that of Brazil, where in 2017, 71 peasants were killed as a result of land or environmental conflicts.

According to the ETC Group, peasant agriculture makes use of only a quarter of world’s farmland, but feeds more than 75% of the world population, while agroindustry, subservient to financial capital, feeds only 25% of the population with three quarters of the farmland.

Guaranteeing the survival of the peasant lifestyle and mode of production is strategic for the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and the process coincides with the launch of the Decade for Family Farming, reaffirming the importance of the topic in this context.

Peasant rights and States’ obligations

In its Preamble and 28 articles, the Declaration establishes the rights of peasants and the obligations of States; the text is an essential overview for the planning and renewal of global agrarian policy at all levels.

Elements to be underlined:

Article 15 stresses that: “Peasants have the right to define their own food production systems, this being recognised by many States and regions as the right to food sovereignty”. Thus, the United Nations recognises and backs the policy proposal that La Via Campesina introduced in 1996 into the debates of the United Nations Food Security Council regarding how to tackle the food crisis, which affects more than a billion people all over the world.

Article 16 establishes that: “States will take appropriate measures to strengthen and support local, national and regional markets in ways that facilitate and guarantee that peasants and other people working in rural areas have access to these markets and participate fully in them under equal conditions in order to sell their products at prices that allow them and their families to reach a decent standard of living”. The importance of state intervention to guarantee fair prices and a decent income is underlined. In Argentina, the price difference between what the peasant receives and what the consumer pays is between 500 and 1600%, a situation that can only be resolved with public policies that intervene in defence of producers and consumers.

Article 17 states that: “Peasants and other people living in rural areas have rights to the land, either individually or collectively (…) and in particular, they have the right to access the land, bodies of water and forests, as well as to use them and manage them sustainably in order to reach decent living standards and to have a place in which they can live safely and securely, in peace and with dignity, and in which to develop their culture” and it recommends to States “Agrarian Reform, to facilitate fair access to the Land and its social function, avoiding the concentration of land”.

This article is vital in the current context of land concentration and land grabbing. In Latin America, half of all land is concentrated in the hands of 1% of landholders, and this region has the most unequal land distribution on the planet: the Gini coefficient – which measures inequality, with 0 for complete equality and 1 for extreme inequality – applied to the land distribution in the continent is 0.79, much higher than in Europe (0.57), Africa (0.56) or Asia (0.55).

According to OXFAM, in Argentina, 83% of Agricultural Productive Units possess only 13.3% of the productive land. According to another study, Family Farming represents two-thirds of producers, but these only have access to 13.5% of the farmland. In 2014, the Argentinian Government carried out a case study on peasant land conflict: as a result, 752 cases involving more than 9 million hectares in conflict were found.

Land concentration is a structural barrier to the development of a nation and peasants’ full enjoyment of their rights.

Article 19 states that: “Peasants have the right to seeds (…) The right to protect their traditional knowledge relating to phylogenetic resources for food and agriculture; (…) The right to participate in decision-making on issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of phylogenetic resources for food and agriculture”.  Faced with the permanent advance of transnationals in the appropriation of genetic material and strong pressure for seed laws that support it among outrage, this article takes on a particular significance.

Another troubling recent piece of information concerns agrotoxics. The massive use of agrochemicals causes the death by poisoning of around 200,000 people a year all over the world according to a Report from the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. According to the Pan-American Health Organization, in 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, poisoning by agrochemical products causes 15% of recorded deaths.

In Argentina, reports from SENASA show that between 2011 and 2013, 63% of tests conducted on fruit and vegetables on the market detected the presence of chemical residue. This data highlights the limitations to the right to health and to a healthy environment and food set forth in the Declaration.

The adoption of the Declaration enriches the human rights system, managing to place the democratic debate between States before the lobby and interests of capital, updating the system from a pluricultural perspective and respecting the billions of people who consider collective rights essential for the enjoyment of individual rights.

New challenges

We are now entering a stage of new challenges, in which we hope that the Declaration will be a tool for peasant struggles. For this reason, we must work to allow peasant organizations to make the Declaration their own, making their voice heard by academics, trade unions, lawmakers and officials so that the Declaration can be adopted at the local, provincial and national levels, as well as becoming an instrument for dialogue between organizations and States in order to move towards new legislation that translates States’ obligations into suitable agrarian policies. The Declaration will also be an important contribution to the legal aspect of agrarian conflicts.

By bringing the Declaration to all corners of the world, we will move forward in a process of greater global advocacy, as possibilities are emerging for new mechanisms for the promotion and monitoring of the Declaration within the United Nations, as well as the future prospect of building an International Convention on the Rights of Peasants.

In the current context of the global crisis of capitalism, in which American imperialism cannot resign itself to losing parts of the market and seeks to deepen its ties to Latin America, the respect of the rights of peasants will only be possible if we manage to express our extensive and continuous struggles. The Declaration that we achieved in the United Nations is also a tool for grassroots work, social unrest and the organization of peasants all over the world, as well as to allow us to express ourselves for the unity and political education of peasant leaders.

To be effective, peasant rights require Agrarian Reform throughout the world that guarantees Peasant Agriculture and Agroecology in order to reach Food Sovereignty, which is vital for justice and world peace; therefore, we reaffirm that this Declaration, with strong humanist contents, represents a great step forward for global governance and the peoples of the world. Far from being the “end of the peasantry”, we reaffirm that peasants are main actors in the struggles for social justice all over the world, and an undisputed part of the solution to the food crisis and migration, which are caused and worsened by financial capital and agribusiness.

– Diego Montón, International Peasants’ Rights Collective, La Via Campesina.

Reblogged from viacampesina.org/en

La Via Campesina: 2018 Annual report


Title: La Via Campesina – 2018 Annual report

Year: June 2019

Language: English (also available in French and Spanish)

Summary: The 2018 Annual Report highlights the selected activities and the advances made during the year towards strengthening the international movement. The year 2018 ended on a truly special and historic note with the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas at the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly held in New York. This is the culmination of a two-decade long mobilization and lobbying effort led by peasants supported by allies and many other social movements. While the year ended on a high note, 2018 also presented several difficult moments: Right-wing populism and fascism increased, so did violent repression and hate speech also on social media; worsening climate change effects etc. Internally, we made a major effort to not only to build a different and just society but to transform the organizational structure and internal functioning of La Via Campesina and to end all forms of violence against women everywhere. Two new internal collectives on training and communication were established to imagine and strategize how to effectively coordinate and support popular struggles and make peasants more conscious of their culture, dignity, interests and capacities to change and transform the society.

Edition: La Via Campesina

Monday, July 15, 2019

India : Major Farmer Unions Resolve Collectively To Uphold Farmers’ Seed Rights

New Delhi : In a press release issued today, prominent farmer leaders of India have cautioned the government that if it does not take strong action to stop illegal GM crop cultivation, they would be forced to take up country-wide agitations. Releasing a letter written to the apex regulatory body for gene technologies, Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), they demanded that the event developer be made legally liable for any illegal GM crop cultivation in the country.

“We will strongly resist any move to bring in GM crops into the country, including through illegal cultivation, as was the case with Bt cotton in India. This is a clear case where government has to take a sane policy decision, using a precautionary approach and ensure that GMOs do not jeopardise our environmental sustainability, or farmer livelihoods or consumer health”, said Yudhvir Singh of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU).

Read the press release here.

Monday, July 8, 2019

South Asian Peasant movements meet in Kathmandu, Nepal


All Nepal Peasants Federation (ANPFa) hosted the regional meeting of La Via Campesina South Asia in Kathmandu from 01 July to 04 July. The meeting was attended by the member organizations, observers and ally groups. Members from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India took part in the 3-day long meeting making a collective commitment to unify the struggles in the region to realize food sovereignty and to also strengthen the solidarity across the region. This important meeting also realized the need for gender equality and training of next-generation youth to carry forward the fight for food sovereignty.

In the context of Nepal, the movement for food sovereignty and agrarian reform is particularly relevant, Nepal is one of the handfuls of countries that have recognized food sovereignty as a people’s right in its constitution. A highly diverse country with rich cultural heritage, which is in its first decades of democracy, Nepal is a landlocked hilly country where the ravages of agribusiness have not penetrated very deeply. After fighting against the monarchy, Nepal’s people are in the process of constructing a democracy. However, many acute crises such as high levels of migration of young people, agricultural land fragmentation, political volatility, natural disasters, and a struggling economy are still big challenges to overcome for the people.


On, the opening day, all the attending members observed a minute of silence in the memory of farmers martyrs who gave up their lives fighting for farmers’ issues. The meeting was inaugurated by comrade Bamdev Gautam, the chair of All Nepal Peasants Association. He revisited the history of peasant struggles in Nepal and spoke about its achievements and challenges ahead for the peasants of Nepal. He remembered the role of La Via Campesina in the historical struggle for democracy in Nepal and emphasized the importance of internationalism among peasant organizations and activists. Chukki Nanjundaswamy, Shanta Manabi and Yudhvir Singh, the Ex-ICC members and Balaram Banskota, senior leader of ANPFa spoke about the historical struggle and birth of La Via Campesina. They gave a historical analysis of the South Asian region, remembering the days of the emergence of Via Campesina in the South Asian region.

On day one, the first half of the day was spent reflecting on the national and regional context, it was evident that the agrarian crisis has aggravated affecting millions of farmers and farm workers households in the subcontinent. All the speakers expressed concerns about rising fundamentalism, the rise of fascist governments in the region and made a collective commitment to denounce and carry forward the fight for a just and equitable society. The governments backed by neo-liberal and corporate regimes have become least interested in responding to the problems of peasants. It was noted that drought, market failure, farmer suicides, and land grabbing as the common problems faced by the peasants. The recent bomb attacks in Srilanka was condemned by all the members and reinstated their solidarity for the people of Srilanka.

La Via Campesina - South Asia
about 2 weeks ago
Regional Meeting of La Via Campesina South Asia hosted by All Nepal Peasants' Federation-ANPFa started today in Kathmandu.
L’image contient peut-être : 2 personnes, personnes souriantes, personnes debout
L’image contient peut-être : 3 personnes, personnes assises et intérieur
L’image contient peut-être : 1 personne, assis et intérieur
L’image contient peut-être : 1 personne, assis, boisson et intérieur
+5

The second half of the first day was spent reviewing the agitations and campaigns carried out by each of the individual members to advance the struggles for justice. The meeting discussed the issues ranging from the deepening crisis of agrarian distress and water shortage, that has led to severe problems for farmers and farmworkers in India, the struggle of tenant farmers against the brutal criminalization by the Military in Pakistan, the fight against the uprising communalism and fight to secure dignified wages for plantation workers under the Thousand Movement in Srilanka and to the fight in Bangladesh against the commercial release of Golden rice.

On the second day, Afsar Jafri, policy analyst and researcher with GRAIN, presided over his presentation where he discussed the Common struggles of farming in South Asia. He identified the common threats for peasant farming and gave an in-depth analysis of the repeated attempt by multinational corporations and governments to capture the land, seeds, natural resources, and local peasant markets through the creation and amendment of laws and through attempts to harmonize these laws across the South Asia region. These efforts of harmonization would allow big multinationals to enter the market. So far the peasant movements in the regions have been resisting these attempts but the global forces of capital are making big strides in the region. The big mergers in Agribusiness, FTAs, and RCEP that threatens to destruct the sovereignty of nations was also noted with much concern.

A considerable amount of time was also spent in reviewing the several international processes – such as the ongoing decade of family farming, the discussions going at the Civil Society Mechanism within the FAO, the resistances against introducing new GM technologies, climate-smart agriculture and more. The delegates following important collective processes such as Agroecology, seeds and biodiversity, Migration, Trade presented the proceedings and results of internal consultations and meetings. It was reiterated and agreed by all the members that the reports and actions from these International processes should be translated to work at the regional level and it must be disseminated to the grassroots. The members present met as four separate working groups to discuss strengthening the work of Internal Collectives. They came up with assessments and reflections of the work carried out on various themes under collectives, they also identified the relevant collective work that is important for the South Asia region. The members also proposed a new regional working collective on the alternative economy.

The women members of South Asia also held a side meeting where they discussed the updates from the International articulation and meetings. The women decided to assert their rightful representation and they decided to voice out for the gender parity starting from their member organizations and work towards ensuring gender balance at all the regional level meetings.

The youth members had a brief brainstorming session to discuss their issues. The decisions were taken to create equal representation at all levels of the movement and to ensure that younger people are trained politically to take forward the several inter-regional and inter-continental struggles forward, within and outside the movement.

On the third day, a training seminar was organized on the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas (UNDROP). Professor Ravivarma Kumar, a senior advocate of Supreme court and Mr.Afsar Jafri presented on the UNDROP. They discussed the historical struggle of Via Campesina in achieving victory to realize this Declaration at the UN level.

Prof Ravivarma gave detailed legal insights into the Declaration. Member organizations realized the need to popularise this Declaration and use it in all the struggles. The member organizations also committed to translate the Declaration into local languages and to organize training on UNDROP.

On the last day, the participants went on a field visit to see the initiatives carried out by farmers of ANPFa. They visited agriculture cooperative setup by ANPFa and run by farmers of Chautara Sangachokgadhi village in Sindhupalchok. Also, they visited the collective organic vegetable farm run by the women's group of ANPFa in Kathmandu. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Farmers groups call on governments to scrap Karuturi Global's new land deal in Ethiopia.





























Karuturi Global's new land deal in Ethiopia must be scrapped


Anywaa Survival Organisation, GRAIN, Kenya Peasants' League, South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements | 13 June 2019 

Two years ago, indigenous communities in Gambella, Ethiopia, celebrated the departure of the Indian company Karuturi Global, after its contract for a 300,000 hectares agribusiness project was finally cancelled.1 But a diplomatic intervention by the Indian government and law suits filed by the company appear to have pushed Ethiopian authorities to backtrack and offer a new lease, this time for 15,000 hectares. Once again, the local communities have not been consulted, and a coalition of groups is now urgently calling on the local authorities to put a stop to the process.

On 22 April 2019, Karuturi Global informed its shareholders that it had been "granted 15,000 ha of land for agricultural activities." Annexed to its communiqué was a letter from the Bureau of Agriculture and Natural Resource Development of the Gambella Regional Government instructing the Special Woreda of Etang to revise Karuturi's lease agreement and sign a new agreement for 15,000 hectares. The letter indicates that the decision is a result of the Indian government's diplomatic intervention with Ethiopia's ambassador to India and Karuturi's lawsuit against the Ethiopian government for damages.2

Karuturi was initially granted a 50-year renewable lease in 2009 to produce various food crops on 100,000 hectares in Jikawo District and Itang Special District in the Gambella Region, with an option for expansion to 300,000 hectares. According to the lease contract, Karuturi had to bring 100,000 hectares under cultivation within two years.3 However, by 2014, Karuturi was only producing on 1,200 hectares and operations at the farm had stalled.4 During those initial five years, the Karuturi project displaced local people, caused deforestation and other negative environmental impacts and made no contribution to local or national food security. Given the various tax incentives given to the company, it also provided little, if any, revenue to the country and no decent jobs for locals. In March 2013, 92 Ethiopian workers at Karuturi's Gambella farm filed a complaint with the Department of Labour and Social Welfare claiming that their salaries were delayed and that the company had not provided identity cards, safety equipment, medical treatment or proper residence. The department found workers living in cramped metal shacks without proper ventilation.5

As the Ethiopian government became aware of Karuturi's lack of capacity to farm at such a scale, it reacted by reducing the size of the land allocation. It began with a reduction to 100,000 hectares in 2010 and then to 1,200 hectares in 2015, despite threats by Karuturi that it would sue the Ethiopian authorities through the investor protections afforded under the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency or the investor-state dispute provisions of the India-Ethiopia bilateral investment treaty.6

In September 2017, Karuturi announced it would finally be exiting Ethiopia altogether, but demanded compensation, claiming that the government had decided to “unilaterally and illegally cancel our investment and trade license.”7 Then, In November 2017, it was reported that the Indian government was pursuing meetings with the Ethiopian embassy in India to assist Karuturi in negotiating with the Ethiopian government to maintain rights to a portion of its initial Gambella concession.8 A few months later, in April 2018, Karuturi told The Reporter that it was withdrawing its legal case against the government and would be signing a fresh lease for 25,000 hectares.9 The recent letter from the Gambella authorities, annexed to Karuturi's April 2019 circular to shareholders, appears to back up these assertions, although the lease that is referred to is for 15,000 hectares.

Anywaa Survival Organisation (ASO) is in close communication with the communities affected by Karuturi’s agribusiness project in Gambella. These communities continue to oppose the return of Karuturi and the government’s issuance of a new land lease for agribusiness, as it will destroy their natural environment, livelihoods and food systems. There is no evidence that the company has offered guarantees this time around that it will provide social and economic benefits to local communities as part of the new lease agreement.

Karuturi has also been using aggressive tactics to try and salvage its 200 hectare flower farm in Kenya. In 2014, the farm was put into receivership after the company fell so deep into debt that it couldn't pay its suppliers.10 The receiver-managers then tried to sell off the farm's assets, to cover their losses, but Karuturi has doggedly tried to stop them in the courts.11 The legal conflict over the farm itself is still ongoing. Over these years, the farm’s former workers in Naivasha have sunk deeper and deeper into abject poverty, selling their bodies and harvesting water from the extremely polluted lake just to survive.12

Karuturi’s corporate leadership, however, continues to produce a public relations mirage about all this, including towards their shareholders, which include international investors like Citibank North America and Deutsche Bank AG. For example, in their annual report for 2018, the directorsThey repeatedly claim that Karuturi Global Limited is "the world’s largest producer of cut roses" and has "a global presence in Asia, America and Europe". Karuturi is definitely not the world's largest producer of cut roses,even though it is not true, Sher Ethiopia PLC (Afriflora) is.13 And Karuturi has no presence in Europe.14

Despite such egregious misleading information, the company has managed to attract a fresh capital commitment from Phoenix Global, the world's second largest rice trader, based in Dubai.15 It is not clear if these funds are for Karuturi’s Ethiopia operations or Kenya operations or both, and whether they are meant to help Karuturi get back on its feet in these countries or eventually take the company over.

Karuturi is one of numerous companies that have grabbed large areas of land in Africa over the past decade and have failed to implement industrial agriculture projects.16 Many of these companies targeted Ethiopia because of the central government’s policy of forcibly removing communities to allocate large swaths of land and providing generous incentives to foreign investors. With a new leadership in power in Addis Ababa, it was hoped that the Ethiopian government would break with this failed policy and turn instead to supporting local food systems and small scale food producers. Karuturi is a critical test case of this new government.

The good news is that the lease agreement has still not been issued by the relevant authorities in Gambella. There is, therefore, still time for the Ethiopian authorities to do the right thing and stop from issuing Karuturi a new lease.

The Indian government should also step back from this process. It must consider the rights of the people of Ethiopia and not pressure Ethiopian authorities into giving up farmlands to Indian companies, especially those with a track record of tax disputes, labour conflicts and complicity in human rights abuses.

--

1 See Anywaa Survival Organisation and GRAIN, “Turono Karuturi (“Bye-bye Karuturi” in Anuak)”, 22 September 2017: https://grain.org/e/5803
2 “Karuturi - Will new land deal prove fertile?”, Hindu Business Line, 22 April 2019:https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/markets/stock-markets/karuturi-will-new-land-deal-prove-fertile/article26913517.ece
3 See the contract here: https://www.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/Karuturi-Agreement.pdf
4 Muluken Yewondwossen, "Government agency strips Karuturi’s land privilege," Capital, 4 January 2016: https://farmlandgrab.org/25644
5 See Anywaa Survival Organisation, "It’s time to end land grabs and establish food sovereignty in Gambela", May 2018:https://www.anywaasurvival.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/aso_report_may_2018.pdf
6 See GRAIN, "Failed farmland deals: A growing legacy of disaster and pain," June 2018: https://grain.org/e/5958
7 See Anywaa Survival Organisation and GRAIN, “Turono Karuturi (“Bye-bye Karuturi” in Anuak)”, 22 September 2017: https://grain.org/e/5803
8 Teshome Tadesse, "The Indian company Karuturi Global requests to resume its operations in Ethiopia," News.et, 28 November 2017:https://www.farmlandgrab.org/27693
9 Birhanu Fikade, "Karuturi to start afresh in Ethiopia", The Reporter, 21 April 2018: https://farmlandgrab.org/28088
10 See Tax Justice Network, Forum Syd Kenya, GRAIN, Anywaa Survival Organisation and South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements, “Karuturi, the iconic landgrabber, flops”, 14 February 2014, https://grain.org/e/4885.
11 See summary presented by Galgallo Fayo, “Nothing rosy for Karuturi as world marks lovers’ day”, Business Daily, 12 February 2019,https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/markets/capital/Nothing-rosy-for-Karuturi-world-marks-/4259442-4978636-xxqt7m/index.html. A collection of key articles is also available at https://www.farmlandgrab.org/cat/show/348.
12 See KBC, “The ripple effect caused by closure of Sher Karuturi flower farm,” 5 June 2018, https://www.kbc.co.ke/ripple-effect-closure-sher-karuturi-flower-farm/ and George Murage, “Former flower farm workers now fetch water from lake”, The Star, 13 April 2019, https://www.the-star.co.ke/business/2019-04-13-former-flower-farm-workers-now-fetch-water-from-lake/
13 According to their website in 2018, Afriflora have 650 ha under greenhouse cultivation and produce 1.1 billion stems per year. (See https://afriflora.nl/en/about-us/ and https://afriflora.nl/en/an-affiliate-sun-european-partners-llp-announces-that-it-has-agreed-to-acquire-a-majority-stake-afriflora). Even in Kenya, Anoko Insights data on volume of production in 2018 does not even list Karuturi (Rabobank, personal communication with GRAIN on 2018-11-19).
14 Sher Karuturi BV, in the Netherlands, went bankrupt in 2014 and was dissolved and deregistered in 2015.
15 Phoenix/Karuturi, “Phoenix Group announces investment into Karuturi Global,” 19 March 2018https://www.karuturi.com/uploads/1/1/8/7/118720540/phoenix_group_announces_investment_into_karuturi_global.pdf
16 See GRAIN, "Failed farmland deals: A growing legacy of disaster and pain," June 2018: https://grain.org/e/5958

Thursday, May 9, 2019

PepsiCo faces major backlash in India, as farmers fight back


09 May 2019: PepsiCo India Holdings Private Limited (PIH), Indian subsidiary of the global giant Pepsico had sued Gujarat-based farmers for growing a hybrid potato variant — FL 2027 aka FC5 — which the firm claims to have exclusive rights to, by virtue of a Plant Variety Certificate they acquired.

Live Law reported that In the commercial trademark suit filed in Ahmedabad City Commercial Court against four farmers, PepsiCo India Holdings Ltd has claimed that in 2016 it obtained registration under The Protection of Plant Varieties and Protection of Farmers Rights Act 2001 to breed a special variety of potato, which is used in making “Lays” chips.

It is also being reported that in their bid to ‘gather evidence’ against these farmers, the firm had allegedly employed a private intelligence agency to collect samples from the farmers’ fields, offering a striking resemblance to the surveillance tactics used by Monsanto against Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser in 1998.

Protests ensued across India.

Among them, the agitation organised by Bhartiya Kisan Union on 1st of May witnessed hundreds of farmers gathering at the Muzzafarnagar collectorate and protesting against the lawsuit.

“Farmers have a right to produce any crop which benefits them. In Gujarat, PepsiCo filed cases against potatoes farmers which is totally wrong and illegal.” , said Rakesh Tikait, National spokesperson of Bhartiya Kisan Union.

During the agitation in Bijnor, farmers brought bottles of soft drink and emptied its contents as a mark of protest. They handed over a memorandum to district magistrate, Sujeet Kumar while addressing it to the President of India. They demanded withdrawal of cases lodged against potato farmers in Gujarat. Farmers threatened the company that if the company fails to withdraw the cases, they will stage a huge protest in UP and other states.


Prior to this, several mobilisations had already taken place in Gujarat and across India.

The Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) shot off a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture in which it said;

Everything about this entire operation is in fact against the law, and it is not the farmers who are violating the law, but the company. The The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act (PPVFRA) has always been projected as a law to protect farmers’ rights. The protection ought not be tied to only when farmers register their varieties with the Authority.

The Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights Act was enacted in India as a sui generis framework at the national level, after India had signed on to the WTO TRIPS in 1995. As is well known, the PPV&FR Act 2001 has upheld the apriori rights of farmers of the country, by explicitly stating under Sec. 39 (1) (iv) the following:

Chapter VI , Farmers’ Rights: Sec. 39 (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act:
(iv) a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into the force of this Act, provided that the farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under this Act.

It is important to note and underscore the importance of this qualifying statement, which says “notwithstanding anything contained in this Act” which means that this clause is more important than clauses that provided exclusive rights to a registrant, and also that farmers are entitled to apriori rights and practices by virtue of the line on “(protection) in the same manner as he was entitled to, before the coming into the force of this Act”. Both these indicate that farmers’ rights are squarely upheld by this Act and are non-compromisable.

The PPVFRA, writes Biswajit Dhar in the Hindu Businessline, was enacted in 2001 after engaging debates were held in the country for more than a decade as to how intellectual property rights should be introduced in Indian agriculture after the country joined the World Trade Organisation in 1995 and agreed to implement the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

He writes;

The choice before India was to either enact a law that protected the interests of farming communities, or to accept the framework of plant breeders’ rights given by the International Union for Protection of New Plant Varieties (better known by its French acronym, UPOV Convention). The latter option was rejected primarily because the current version of UPOV, which was adopted in 1991 (UPOV ’91), denies the farmers the freedom to re-use farm saved seeds and to exchange them with their neighbours.


India introduced a chapter on Farmers’ Rights, which has three legs: one, farmers are recognised as plant breeders and they can register their varieties; two, farmers engaged in the conservation of genetic resources of land races and wild relatives of economic plants and their improvement through selection and preservation are recognised and rewarded; and, three, protecting the traditional practices of the farmers of saving seeds from one harvest and using the saved seeds either for sowing for their next harvest or sharing them with their farm neighbours.

Pepsico withdraws case, but fears of an out of court settlement looms

Coming under pressure from farmers’ organisations and civil society, Pepsico announced that it would withdraw the cases after holding discussions with the government. “We are relying on the discussions to find a long-term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed production,” a company statement said.

Activists are worried of an ‘out of court settlement’ and at media reports that stated the Gujarat government had decided to persuade farmers not to grow the FL2027 or, if they did, to sell the produce only to PepsiCo. 

The Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) has recated to this news by saying that any settlement which does not reiterate and reinforce Section 39 (1) (iv) of the PPV&FR Act was not acceptable and even unpardonable.

“The Section 39(1) (iv) of the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act 2001 is satisfactory and justifiable. This specific section of the sui generis statute that India brought in 2001, provides an entitlement to farmers of India to cultivate any variety that they would like to, including PVP-registered varieties. The section is applicable irrespective of the source of seed, type of seed, type of registrant, type of crop, and to who and how the harvest was sold. Nothing matters except whether the farmer has sold branded seeds or not, as far as farmers’ rights are concerned,” ASHA stated in a press release.

In his article on Newsclick elaborating on Pepsiso’s war on India’s farmers, Sr Journalist and activist Prabir Purkayastha reminds that this case follows an earlier case in May last year in Delhi High Court where Monsanto has claimed patent rights over its Bt Cotton seed and sued a Telangana seed company. The Bt patent case will now be heard on the central issue whether Monsanto’s claim of patent on these seeds is valid under Indian Patent law.

“At the heart of the struggle is capital’s need – Monsanto and PepsiCo’s – to continuously enclose spheres and generate surpluses from creating a monopoly over something that it does not actually own. This is the use of what capital calls “Intellectual Property”, which is essentially human knowledge and creativity accumulated over centuries and millenia. A small tweak in knowledge or creativity produces something which we recognise as new or innovative. How do we separate this from what went before? Why is it that only the last mile – the latest tweak – should be a monopoly and not what the farmers have grown over thousands over years?”, Prabir writes.

As on date, Pepsico has withdrawn 1 out of 3 cases it had filed against the potato farmers in Gujarat.

However, Newsclick reports that Mr. Anand Yagnik, the lawyer representing the farmers, maintained that the withdrawal of the case appeared “malicious and motivated” because it is still unclear what had transpired behind the curtain between the PepsiCo and the State of Gujarat.


Also watch:


Thursday, April 18, 2019

17 April: Farm workers in Gazipur, Bangladesh mobilise to demand agrarian reform


In the memory of 19 Brazilian landless peasants who were massacred in Eldorado do Carajás on 17 April 1996,the Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation (BAFLF) and National Women Farmers and Workers association (NWFA) observed International Day of Peasant’s Struggle on this date.

They called for the implementation of the United Nation Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas, which was adopted by United Nations General Assembly on 17 December, 2018.

Hundreds of farmers, farm workers, peasant women attended the demonstration at Gazipur.

The following demands were placed to esnure the implementation of UN declaration on Peasants’ right:

  • The ownership of land is to be determined on the principal that those who cultivate land are owners of that land.
  • Recognition of peasant women as farmers and ensure equal rights and control over land and other resources
  • Stop the introduction and cultivation of GMO crops including GE Golden Rice and BT Brinjal
  • Resist corporate aggression, the use and import of GMO seeds and ban chemical pesticides
  • Incentive to be given to local farmers to protect local seeds and promote farmers’ control over seeds and territories.
  • Ensuring food sovereignty rights of people through agrarian reform and social justice
  • Government must enhance the capacities of public sector in seeds productions and distribution and more allocation for BADC must be ensured.


BAFLF general Secretary presided over the meeting while NWFA member Sharmin Akter conducted the programme. Among other Golam Sorowor, MD Mamun Hossen, Md Ranju Khan of BAFLF and Nurjahan Begum, Sharmin Sultana of NWFA spoke at the mobilization.