Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Promote Peasant Agroecology as an alternative to migration: LVC in Dhaka


La Via Campesina International Working Collective on Migration and Waged Workers represented the concerns of small farmers, indigenous people, landless workers, women and youth at the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights. The People’s Global Action is a parallel event to the 9th Global Forum on Migration and Development, and took place 5th December to the 8th of December. Hosted by the Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Workers’ Federation (BAFLF) , the group of 31 delegates participated in the PGA process especially on issues connecting migration to climate change and peasant agroecology. Following the PGA, the delegation was hosted on a field visit by BAFLF.

On the 5th of December, Abdul Majeed (President of BAFLF), Nasrin Sultana (NWFA), Omoli Kisku (Bangladesh Adviasi Samiti) and Asma Begum (Bangladesh Krishok Federation) attended the Asia Civil Society meeting. They presented the situation of coastal Bangladeshi communities, rural farm workers and small holder farmers who are facing the brunt of the climate crisis. 

Speaking at the working group, Omoli shared, “Very often, the scant attention on rural agriculture aggravates the distress induced by climate change. The depleting groundwater level in rural Bangladesh is forcing the small farmers to go deeper to look for water sources. In the process, they incur huge debts and place high demands on energy needs.” 

The energy crisis in the country in forcing the government to look for quick fix solutions leading to thermal plants coming up in the eco-sensitive areas of Sunderbans. These quick-fix solutions, she alleges, further endanger an already vulnerable region by forcing locals migrate. Asma Begum and Nasrin also highlighted the increasing micro-credit institutions that is coming up in the country side that is further worsening the debt crisis of small farmers. 

“The decision to migrate is very often a forced choice, due to the developmental model that is focused only on production and profit. Unless we question this developmental model, and force the GFMD to acknowledge the linkages between migration and the neo-liberal developmental model, we are not going to address the root causes that lead people to flee their home land and communities”, said Nasrin. 

On the 6th and 7th of December, a wider delegation of La Via Campesina, comprising of leaders from All Nepal Peasant Federation (ANPFA), Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh Adivasi Samiti, Bangladesh Kisani Sabha, BAFLF, Bharatiya Kisan Union (India) and SOC (Spain) intervened at two plenaries on Climate Change and Labor Markets. 

Rajbir Singh, a farmer from Bundelkhand region of India, presented the alarming situation of water scarcity and continuous droughts that have forced the region’s farmworkers to migrate to the cities in hordes. He said that for farmers farm labour is increasingly hard to find in the region and very often small farmers turn to farm workers. Many a times, he says, cattle are unattended. The worst affected are women and elders who are left behind in the villages. He cited Bundelkhand as an example of how climate induced migration leads to more exploitation of workers in the cities, where they are left with little bargaining power and are often at the mercy of agents who promise work. 

Sarita Bhusal and Bimala Kumari, representing the peasant women in Nepal, re-emphasized the increasing feminization of agriculture in and the additional burden on a woman peasant to manage her fields and home. 

Speaking at the forum, Lal Bahadur Biswokarma presented the case of Dalit landless farmers who have yet to benefit from the promise of agrarian reform. He attacked the neo-liberal capitalist model that created the crisis of migration in the first place, while questioning its symbolic attempts to now address the same. 

La Via Campesina insisted throughout the PGA that peasant agroecology is a solution to climate change and the need to call upon the nation states who are participating in GFMD to rethink the development model they are pursuing. 
Young farmers in the group represented the need to make agriculture more viable for small farmers, particularly the youth by providing fair support price to their produce and by investing in rural infrastructure. Gaurav Tikait, Dharmendra Jumar (of BKU) and Pramesh of ANPFA made presentations that asked for implementation of the agrarian reform and increased investment in rural infrastructure that will encourage youth to take up farm and non-farm labour in their communities and country side. 

“What GFMD is trying to do is trying to patch up a wound, but not necessarily looking at the wound as a symptom of a larger crisis. Migration and the human rights abuse that is blatantly common needs redressal. But at the same time, concrete steps must be taken to arrest migration in the first place and encourage people to remain back and work on their land. Instead, what we are seeing is the governments promoting chemical intensive farming and GM crops more than ever, which threatens to destroy the soil and small farms – leading people to quit agriculture and migrate”, said Pramesh.

“We need to look at progressive steps taken by governments in parts of the world and encourage member states to scale it up. Sikkim, Kerala are states in India that are actively promoting 100% organic farming. We have schemes in India like Rural Employment Guarantee that encourages people to take up development work in their own villages in non-agricultural season. These efforts need to be replicated at a larger scale,” added Dharmendra Kumar of BKU. 
On the 8th, the visiting delegation of La Via Campesina met with the agricultural workers of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute and stood in solidarity with their ongoing struggle to bring about wage parity, gender equality in the farms and their continued demand for regularization of farm work. La Via Campesina delegates also passed on messages of global solidarity to the farm workers.

The team also met up with Mr. Biswas, the ex-Director of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, where he presented to them the massive stride that Bangladesh has made in bringing about self-sufficiency in rice. The team also discussed with him the concern of peasants and small farmers worldwide at the appropriation of agricultural research by large corporations with vested interests and the decreasing investments made in transparent public research by various governments. 

Solidarity with women seed savers of Chambarbazil
On the 9th of December, the visiting delegates met up with the women farmers of NWFA, an affiliate of BAFLF in the village of Chambarbazil, Fulbariya. One of the local leaders of NWFA, explained to the visiting delegates the steps taken by communities to practice ecological agriculture and their campaigns against industry seeds. The village of Chambarbazil, with an average holding of less than 1 acre, is following the principle of food sovereignty where each family is producing and providing for the community in a sustainable way food that is local and suitable to their culture and climate. The focus they say is not on production but on the quality of what they produce. Rima Akthar, one of local leaders demonstrated to the visiting delegates “Maria Model” of grain selection, a traditional model that communities rely on, to separate good yielding paddy grain from the harvest. They also demonstrated ways in which the selected seeds, are preserved in essence of jamun leaves, for the next planting season. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

OneIndia: Demonetisation: Bhartiya Kissan Union distributes free potatoes in Lucknow

Agitating people under the aegis of Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU) distributed free potatoes as a mark of protest against demonetisation here, media reported on Wednesday.

Lucknow, Nov 30: Agitating people under the aegis of Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU) distributed free potatoes as a mark of protest against demonetisation here, media reported on Wednesday. "We are not against demonetisation but where will farmers go with Rs 1000 note in Nov. How will he function in sowing season?," said BKU district president Harinam Verma.

"Therefore, as a mark of protest farmers are distributing free potatoes & will also stage a protest. Govt must do something, added Verma.

A united opposition had called a nationwide shutdown and protests on November 28 against the demonetisation move announced by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8. Queues outside banks and ATMs and chaotic scenes still be seen outside banks and ATMs as people continue to hustle to get valid currency notes for meeting their daily expenses after the move announced to curb black money menace in the country.

Read more at: http://www.oneindia.com/india/demonetisation-bhartiya-kissan-union-distribute-free-potato-2277040.html

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Sparks Have Turned Into Raging Fires" in Karnataka state-wide anti-drought mobilization

By: Rashmi Munikempanna

Images courtesy: Janandolanagala Mahamaithri

On November 21, as legislators prepared to start on the winter session of the Karnataka Assembly at Suvarna Soudha in Belagavi, Karnataka (South India), a series of coordinated protests erupted in different cities across the State. These protests, organized under the leadership of Janandolanagala Mahamaithri (The Alliance of People’s Movements) sought to bring lawmakers' attention to the problems crippling rural Karnataka. Protestors had been on a campaign trail for a month prior, mobilizing cities and villages with a three-point demand: a complete waiver of loans of farmers, farm workers and women’s self-help groups; and, a scientific compensation for crop losses plus the implementation of a comprehensive drought management plan.

This is the first campaign for the Alliance, which announced its formation at a conference in Mysore a few weeks ago. The Alliance has brought together diverse people’s movements in Karnataka to collectively ask for accountability from those running the State. Chukki Nanjundaswamy, Working President of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, a major constituent member of Mahamaithri, stated,  “This attempt at coming together articulated new desires of hope”-- for the future, for an imagination of collectivity. 
Belagavi protest

The indefinite protest, at Belagavi, was kicked off by the movement for land and housing rights organized by the Bhoomi Matthu Vasati Vanchita Horatagarara Samiti, member of Mahamithri.  H. S. Doreswamy, the 98-year-old veteran freedom fighter who led the protest said that the poor had been completely neglected by successive state governments since Independence. A neglect that pervades the way the State governments treat rural Karnataka. 

Karnataka has been declared drought ridden for 11 of the past 16 years and yet there is no comprehensive drought management policy in place that can kick off immediately to addresds rural distress. 139 out of 176 Taluks have been declared as being under severe drought this year and yet this is not being treated with the seriousness it deserves. Recently cities in Karnataka have also had to bear the brunt of what the world is terming ‘water wars’ and yet the lawmakers refuse to address the fears and insecurities around food and water that citizens of this State have to live with. 

Devanuru Mahadeva
“Drought is like having an accident. Those standing nearby need to immediately provide water to the accident victim. But both the Central and the State governments are standing by saying, 'You do it first,' 'No, you do it first,'” said an anguished Devanuru Mahadeva, writer, thinker, and one of the guiding leaders of the Mahamaithri. Speaking at a press conference in Belagavi, after the disappointing response of the Karnataka Assembly to their demands, he spoke about the effect that chemical farming has had on the land and asked for a new way to re-imagine how we think about land and ownership stating that all land should be on lease and taken back by the State when abused. He also referred to the massive 1.14 lakh crore loans, given to corporate India, that have been so willingly written off by the banks recently as compared to the absolute refusal to waive of loans of farmers, farm workers and women. 

KT Gangadhar addresses the crowd at Shivamogga
KT Gangadhar, President of KRRS, who led the protest in Shivamogga, referred to Prof. Nanjundaswamy’s warning in the late '80s about the anxieties that would plague producers of food post-liberalization. This is an anxiety that rural India now struggles with--amplified by persistent drought conditions, exacerbated by criminally neglectful government policy. Members of KRRS marched the streets of the Shivamogga, holding the oxen whip up as a symbol of resistance. “Farmers whose lands are their life force should not be forced into a position to sell,” said K T Gangadhar. “Protecting our agricultural practices is equivalent to protecting our living cultural heritages.”

On Thursday December 1,t KS Puttannaiah, leader of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Member of the Legislative Assembly will introduce a private member’s resolution asking for the demands of the campaign to be met. The Mahamaithri in their latest press release has stated that if this resolution is not supported they will issue a call to intensify the movement. 

It might be worthwhile for the government to take heed of the words of HS Doreswamy: “Sparks have turned into raging fires and these will not spare those in power”.

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: yudhvir55@yahoo.com 
                                                                                                                            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