Saturday, June 30, 2018

La Via Campesina denounces corporate influence in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Canada

Harare, 29 June: The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will hold meetings of the XXII Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) in Montreal July 2-7, 2018 to prepare for the main decisions to be made at the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parts on the Convention on Biological Diversity in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt at the end of November – decisions of utmost importance for the future of peasants and, more broadly, all of humanity and the planet.
In the context of this year’s SBSTTA, La Via Campesina demand that the governments reject:
– The release of invisible and unidentified genetically modified living organisms resulting from the so-called new genetic engineering techniques and designed to completely eliminate certain animal and plant species (“gene drives”)
– The modification of international rules and regulations that permit States, the right to reject genetically-modified plants and animals, forcing them instead to accept new genetic engineering techniques
– The allowance of free and unlimited access by a few transitional corporations to the genetic sequences of living organisms. The pretext of computerized dematerialization of these sequences gives them the ability to patent all seeds, all farm animals, all medicines, and all other industrialized products derived from natural biodiversity
La Via Campesina will be present in Montreal to oppose the transnational corporations and the policies that support their attempts to change the international conventions of the United Nations to plunder and destroy rather than protect all of the earth’s freely existing biodiversity and replacing it with synthetic organisms designed in their laboratories.
Peasants, Indigenous Peoples, pastoralists and fisherfolk live and work daily within biological diversity. We understand that human beings are part of this diversity and that it must be respected and protected as our lives, our food, and our future generations depend on it. Protecting peasants’ and Indigenous Peoples’ knowledge, as well as our rights to the sustainable use of biodiversity, is at the heart of our struggle against privatization and destruction.
Defending true biodiversity and the nature that feeds and supports us is an element of Food Sovereignty. Food Sovereignty advocates for the rights of peoples rather than corporations to determine the advance and applicability of any and all technology introduced into the natural world. It preserves the rights of citizens and food producers as integral to any decisions about the future and resilience of the worlds’s food system.

For further information and interviews with the LVC Delegation, contact:
[FR/EN] Geneviève Lalumière (Quebec) | | 1.514.577.9265
[FR/EN/ES] Antonio Onorati (Italy) | | | 39.340.821.9456
[FR] Alimata Traore (Mali) | | 223.7603.0767

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A major breakthrough in scaling up agroecological farming in Karnataka, India

26 June 2018, Bengaluru, India: After the much publicised commitment of the State of Andhra Pradesh to scale up ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ among small holder farmers, its neighbouring state Karnataka too has announced its resolve to propagate this model.
The announcement by the Karnataka government, came after the Chief Minister and his team met up with officials implementing the ZBNF program in Andhra Pradesh alongside members of the ZBNF movement in Karnataka – Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), Mahamaitree Alliance, and others on Monday (25 June).
KRRS, a prominent voice of the state’s farmers, is also a member of the international peasant movement La Via Campesina.
ZBNF is considered ‘zero budget’ because costs of raising the main crop are offset by the income that farmers earn from intercrops. This model ends reliance on purchased inputs and loans for farming, positioning itself as a solution to extreme indebtedness and suicides among Indian farmers.
Developed by Subhash Palekar, an Indian agriculturalist, this model of farming has already turned into a grassroots movement among the farmers in Karnataka, after KRRS organised several training camps in early 2000’s and persuaded their members to adopt this model. The ‘ZBNF movement’ has organized close to 60 massive state-level training camps in the last decade, with an average of 1000–2000 farmer participants, including women, men and youth.
In Karnataka, the ZBNF movement has achieved massive scale not only because of effective farming practices, but because of a social movement dynamic – motivating members through discourse, mobilising resources from allies, self-organised pedagogical activities, charismatic and local leadership, and generating a spirit of volunteerism among its members. For long the farmers movements have been demanding the State to offer support for scaling this up.

In the announcement made at the meeting on Monday evening, the government of Karnataka has agreed to start a pilot project and set up teams who will work in 10 agro-climatic zones of the state to scale up this model in a systematic way.
The state officials will also be visiting Andhra Pradesh where the State government has already launched an ambitious scale-up of the ZBNF programme to take it to 6 million farmers by 2024.
ZBNF, like agroecology, aims to enhance nature’s own processes and eliminate external inputs, debt and dependency. The practices of ZBNF include effective spacing of crops, contouring and bunds to conserve water; intensive mulching; the addition of microbial cultures to enhance decomposition and nutrient recycling; use of local seeds; integration of crops, trees and livestock (mainly cows); extensive intercropping; and crop rotations, among others.
In the announcement made at the meeting on Monday, the State government has also assured to allocate budgets for the implementation of this program.

Friday, June 15, 2018

India: Farmers in Karnataka distribute mangoes for free to protest against steep fall in prices

This report originally appeared in The Hindu on 15 June

People visiting the Deputy Commissioner’s office and other government offices as well as courts at the DC Office complex in Kolar have a gift for them. They are getting mangoes of different varieties free of cost.
The district unit of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) led the free distribution on Thursday to register its protest against steep fall in prices of mango.
The protesters also presented a bunch of mangoes to Deputy Commissioner G. Sathyavathy and Additional Deputy Commissioner K. Vidyakumari who came to receive the memorandum.
Mango cultivators are facing problem due to fall in the prices and the government should come to their rescue, KRRS leaders said.
Though farmers did not get good prices, mangoes are being sold in retails markets at higher prices, with the middlemen reaping the benefits, KRRS state vice-president K. Narayana Gowda said.
The government has failed to establish mango processing units which would have helped farmers to fetch better prices, he added.
“Assurances in connection with starting of mango processing units remained only on paper”, KRRS women’s wing convener A. Nalini said.
The outfit also condemned lack of facilities at the APMC yard in Srinivasapur where a large quantity of mango is being brought for sale.

Harvest of Hope | The struggles of tenant farmers in Okara Military Farms, Pakistan

This article originally appeared on Newsline in its May Issue

When the warm sun, that brings
Seed-time and harvest, has
returned again…
— Longfellow

As the farmers in Punjab harvested a bumper crop of wheat, on the Okara Military Farms this April, there was palpable tension in the air. Several women in each village set up camp and kept vigil on the fields, lest the men in uniform appear and demand their batai (share). For the last 19 years, the women have fought and resisted them relentlessly, along with their men, to claim the land their forefathers have tilled for a hundred years, in the hope that some day the ownership would be transferred to them as promised by three successive heads of state.
The year 2018 has brought sorrow and added to the anxieties of the farmers. Their strongest ally, Asma Jahangir, who fought with them in the courts, is no more. Meanwhile, the repression of the present incumbents has intensified. In 2023, the status of the lease of the land will change in favour of the farmers. According to the rules, if an agricultural land is tilled by the occupancy tenant for 25 years, he or she has the right to claim its ownership, Aqila Naz, finance secretary Anjuman-e-Mazarain Punjab (AMP) and president Peasant Women’s Society Pakistan, tells Newsline.
View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
Asma Jehanghir speaking at Okara Military Farms, demanded land to peasnats, withdrawal of fabricated charges against Mehar Sattar and others
On February 26, Yunus Iqbal, leader of the movement and five others were picked up by the agencies, and made to sign the contract for a cash rent system that the AMP had been resisting since 2000. This is the second time the peasants have been forced to sign the agreement under duress. In 2004, the forces had invaded the villages and got signatures from each and every tenant. It was Asma Jahangir who fought their case.
On March 19, when the farmers gathered to pay homage to her on the fortieth day of her death, the police raided the village and disrupted the gathering, injuring several participants. On April 4, the Supreme Court rejected the plea to transfer Mehar Abdul Sattar, general secretary of the AMP, under trial since April 2016, from Sahiwal’s high security prison – Pakistan’s Guantanamo Bay – to the district jail.
The month of April did not bring any good tidings for the tenants. As they were contemplating how to commemorate the International Day of Peasants’ Struggles on April 17, their leader, Yunus Iqbal, chairman AMP, was once again picked up by the agencies on April 13, along with his colleagues. When a petition was filed in court regarding his disappearance he was brought to the Okara Police Camp, an FIR was registered against him on fake charges and he was put behind bars.
As compared to the thousands of acres of land owned by the rich and the powerful of the country, the farmers are fighting for a mere 17,013 acres of land in Okara, and three democratic governments have colluded with the powers-that-be to prevent this from happening. It is seldom that we, the dwellers of the concrete maze called cities, turn our gaze towards the rural backwaters of Punjab or Sindh or Balochistan or KP, to see the injustices that are being perpetrated there.
According to the 2017 census, the rural population forms 60.3 per cent of the total population. Agriculture, despite its falling share in the GDP (19.5 per cent), remains the largest sector in terms of employment: 42.3 per cent of the country’s workforce toils in the fields, grows food for all of us, and yet it is mired in grinding poverty, landlessness and subjugation, indicating a deep malaise in agrarian economic and social structures.
According to the last Labour Force Survey undertaken in 2014-2015, agricultural workers earned Rs 7,804 a month, while the national average monthly wage stood at Rs 14,971. With the average family size at 6.31 per cent and 1.89 earning members per family in Pakistan (the Household Integrated Economic Survey 2015-2016), the monthly income of a rural household translates into Rs 77 (less than a dollar) per person per day. Low income, combined with poor access to basic facilities in health and sanitation, education and physical infrastructure, have trapped the rural population in a cycle of poverty.
Land grab and violations of human rights of peasants are registering a rise the world over due to unrestrained capital accumulation and corporate greed. But alongside, so is the struggle of the peasants for their rights.
The international movement, La Via Campesina, with 182 member organisations in 81 countries, is globalising hope and solidarity among millions of peasants, farmers, landless people and agricultural workers. Being an affiliate of the Kisaan Rabita Committee Pakistan, the AMP is connected with La Via Campesina. In Pakistan, the Okara Military Farms tenants’ struggle is actively supported by civil society, human rights defenders, the national human rights institutions, trade unions and workers’ groups – and millions of silent supporters.

Whether this support will translate into ownership of the Okara farms for the peasants, remains to be seen.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Walmart-Flipkart Deal: Continuing attack on retailers, producers, farmers & labour, and on India’s digital sovereignty

Public Statement, 4 June 2018

The US based Multinational Corporation (MNC) Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart undermines India’s economic and digital sovereignty and the livelihood of millions in India. If the $ 16 billion deal goes through, two US companies (the other being Amazon) will dominate India’s e-retail sector. They will also own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them our digital overlords, joining the ranks of Google and Facebook.

The acquisition of the largest e-commerce firm promoted by Indian entrepreneurs is the latest step in a series of developments aimed at circumventing the existing cap on FDI in multi-brand retail by permitting foreign-owned online retail in India, and developing a digital stranglehold by foreign companies over India’s consumer goods value chains.

This process saw the gradual take-over of majority stake in the formerly Indian-owned Flipkart, the entry of the world’s largest e-retailer Amazon, and now the take-over of Flipkart by Walmart. Jack Ma, head of China’s Alibaba, says all e-commerce companies now have integrated online and offline strategies, consolidating operations towards one ‘new retail’. This is also evidenced by recent moves in the US by Walmart to enter e-retail and by Amazon to move into brick-and-mortar retail. It should therefore be clear to everyone that allowing FDI in e-retail in India is but a back-door entry of foreign players into multi-brand retail. Ironically, the same political party, which a decade ago strongly opposed the entry of Walmart into India, is now happy to welcome its far more powerful, digitally-enabled avatar.

India’s domestic digital retail industry will of course suffer by the domination of these two US MNCs. But worst affected will be small brick-and-mortar retail stores accounting for over 90% of the Indian retail sector, SME manufacturers, small delivery companies and suppliers of goods including farmers whose margins will be ruthlessly squeezed, with their behaviour digitally-controlled. Walmart is well-known for its global supply chain, especially of cheap goods from China, which means local manufacturers and suppliers will suffer deep hits.

This is similar to what would happen with FDI in brick-and-mortar multi-brand retail. It will, in fact, be worse, as digitally-enabled ‘new retail’ becomes omnipresent and omnipotent. The concentration of economic power with the two US MNCs, now constituting a potential duopoly in India, will render them too powerful to be meaningfully regulated. In the US, the trail of destruction of small stores, local businesses, small manufacturers and countless workers left behind by Walmart and other giant retailers is well documented, and the EU has also witnessed the same. ‘New retail’ seeks to own and control key data of all trading activity across sectors resulting in unassailable power. National policy or regulatory remits over them would then be as ineffective as they currently are over Google or Facebook. Manufacturers, suppliers and traders, producers and service providers, all become enslaved to digitally controlled platforms, working as per their parameters, but denied any rights or benefits. In this context, it is critical that the Competition Commission of India (CCI) examine the issue of monopolistic trade practices vis-a-vis this deal.

It is argued that Walmart and other retail giants will generate employment, but of what kind? Walmart has a long history of busting trade unions, violating the right to collective bargaining, paying poverty wages and disregarding social security laws. In e-commerce, work will also be outsourced to couriers and other service providers, making it a long stretch to prove that they are workers. Further, even if Walmart and Amazon employ a few thousand more, they are unlikely to neutralise the massive employment loss associated with the collapse of both the formal and informal retail sector. In this business model, whether in retail or in so-called ‘aggregators’ such as Uber, the giant corporations provide temporary benefits to consumers, and hence appearing to be on their side, by squeezing everybody in between including small producers and the vast majority of workers in the supply chain.

Digitalisation will soon be central to a wide range of economic activities, many of these being controlled by MNCs. A sovereign nation must be able to regulate e-commerce companies, making them comply with policies that uphold public interest, and ensuring that all economic actors get their fair share. This will be next to impossible with giant corporations operating from abroad and storing all their data overseas. There is an urgent need to reverse the entry of foreign e-commerce companies and their take-over of Indian entities, and to evolve effective regulations to govern the operations of domestic entities and protect the interests of the different players involved.

Digital companies such as Google and Facebook frequently refuse government or court orders for content take-down asserting that their data, algorithms and platforms operate from the US, and are subject to the latter’s laws. It will not be very different for data and Artificial Intelligence powering e-commerce platforms. This is what makes it extremely difficult to nationally regulate global digital companies, including e-commerce ones, and the reason that digital platforms in key sectors, including on-line retail, should be domestically owned.

After trailing behind India in software technologies till a decade back, China is now a global leader in digital technologies. China has been able to leverage its growing software capability because it has incubated domestically-owned digital e-commerce systems such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, which also store their data locally.

The Government is seemingly blind to, or does not care about, the extra-ordinary dangers that the country would face if India’s e-commerce ecosystems are foreign-owned and controlled. Not just China, but the US and EU have also begun to disallow foreign takeovers of digital companies considered of strategic or economic importance. If the growing tendency of foreign control of digital platforms in key sectors is not resisted and reversed, India runs the danger of what has been called digital colonization.

Citizens of India should be deeply concerned about the ongoing developments in the e-commerce and especially the online retail space, the latest of which is the Walmart-Flipkart deal. We the undersigned, call for an urgent national debate on this important issue of economic independence and digital sovereignty, affecting the interests of many millions of Indians in different walks of life from workers to farmers, small shopkeepers and suppliers, manufacturers and traders, and a host of service providers, apart from potentially compromising consumption data of hundreds of millions of Indians.

Pending a national debate involving all the affected constituencies, and an informed collective decision based on it, we further demand that the Government of India halts Walmart’s takeover of Flipkart, upholds the policy of restricting FDI in multi-brand retail, and draws up a policy in consonance with this for online retail. We also seek a comprehensive policy on leveraging the strategic value of India’s data for the interest of India and her people, and on domestic ownership and regulation of digital platforms in key sectors.

Endorsed by:

Organisations/ NetworksAndhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union ( APVVU)

Adivasi Navjeewan Gathan Nayoti Aagua (ANGNA)

Ahilya Chamber Commerce & Industry, Indore, Madhya Pradesh

All Goa FMCG & Telecom Distributors Association (AGFTDA)

All India Bank Officers Confederation (AIBOC)

All India Central Council Of Trade Unions (AICCTU)

All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF)

All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)

All India Online Vendors Association

All India People's Forum (AIPF)

All India People's Science Network (AIPSN)

All India Public Sector and Central Government Officers Confederation

All India Retailers Federation, Jammu & Kashmir

All India Women Hawkers Federation

All Tripura Merchants Association

Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)

Alternative Law Forum (ALF), Karnataka

Anti Free Trade Agreement Committee

Badayl India

Banabasi Vikash Parishad, Odisha

Bengaluru Jilla Beedhi Vyapari Sanghatanegala Okkuta, Bengaluru

Bhai Sudam Deshmukh Shikshan Santha, Nagpur

Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal

Bihar Rajya Khadyann Vyasai Sangh, Patna, Bihar

Campaign Against Fabricated Cases (CAFC), Odisha

Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA)

Centre for Workers Education, New Delhi

Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)

Chamber of Associations of Maharashtra Industry and Trade (CAMIT)

Chandigarh Beopar Mandal, Chandigarh

Chemical Merchants Association, Delhi

Chhattisgarh Chamber of Commerce & Industries

Civil Society Forum On Human Rights, Bhubaneswar

Communist Party of India (Marxist - Leninist) CPI(ML)

Coorg Organisation For Rural Development, Karnataka (CORD)

Darbar Sahitya Sansad

Delhi Grain Merchants Association

Delhi Hawkers Welfare Association

Delhi Science Forum (DSF)

Distributors Stockists Association, Hyderabad, Telangana

Empower India

Environment Support Group (ESG), Karnataka

Federation of Madras Merchants and Manufacturers Association, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Federation of Traders Organisations of West Bengal

Feminist Learning Partnerships

Focus on the Global South

Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), West Bengal

Forum against Free Trade Agreements

Forum Against oppression of Women, Bombay

Forum for IT Employees (FITE), Tamil Nadu and Karnataka

Free Software Movement, Karnataka

Free Software Movement of India (FSMI)

Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS), Jaipur

Haryana Vyapar Mandal, Panipat, Haryana

Hawkers Joint Action Committee

Hazards Centre, New Delhi

Himachal State Vyapar Mandal, Una, Himachal Pradesh

Holistic Approach for Peoples Empowerment (HOPE), Puducherry

IT For Change

India FDI Watch

Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF)

Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers movement (ICCFM)

Jamnagar Veopari Mahamandal, Jamnagar, Gujarat

Jan Abhiyan Sanstha, Himachal Pradesh

Jharkhand Small & Tiny Industries Association, Baidyanath, Jharkhand

Karaavali Karnataka Janaabhivriddhi Vedike, Mangalore

Karshaka Munnettam

Kerala Swatantra Matysa Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF)

Kerala Vyapari Vyavasai Ekopana Samithi, Calicut, Kerala

Kisan Morcha, Bikaner

Knowledge Commons

Krityanand UNESCO Club, Jharkhand

LABIA - A Queer Feminist LBT Collective, Mumbai

Malanad Karshaka Raksha Samithi, Kerala

Malda Merchants Chamber of Commerce, Malda, West Bengal

Malwa Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Indore, Madhya Pradesh

Mewat Shiksha Vikas Samiti, Alwar

NAW- National Alliance of Women

Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh

National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)

National Coalition for Education

National Fish Workers Forum (NFF)

National Hawker Federation

National Working Group on Patent Laws and WTO- (NWGPL)

Nav Jagriti Collective, New Delhi

New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)

Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, Odisha

Prachi Surakshya Samiti, Odisha

Prantiya Udyog Vyapar Pratinidhi Mandal, Haldwani, Uttarakhand

Promotion Sustainable Development, India

Public Services International, India

Punjab Distributors Association

Punjab Pradesh Beopar Mandal

Rajasthan Khadya Pradarth Yyapar Mahasangh

Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh

Shaheed Bhagat Singh Vichar Manch, Bihar

Small Business Congress

Swadeshi Andolan

Tamilnadu Vanigarsangalin Peravai

The Grains Rice & Oils Merchants Association, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra

The Indian Chamber of Commerce, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh

The Poona Merchants chamber, Pune, Maharashtra

Toxics Watch Alliance

Universal Versatile Society

Upekshit Shikshan Vikas Pratishtan, Maharashtra

Uttar Bihar Vanijya & Udyog Parishad, Muzaffarpur, Bihar

Uttar Pradesh Udyog Vyapar Mandal, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh

Vidarbha Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Akola, Maharashtra