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.