Farmers Reject United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS)

Press Release

22 September 2021

Roots for Equity and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek held the National Food Systems Summit at Renewal Center, Lahore on September 22, 2021. The National Summit was held as national mobilization towards the Global People’s Summit (GPS) for Just, Equitable, Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems. The GPS has been organized through the coordinated efforts of peoples’ movements and farmers’ movements, a unity of more than 21 organizations across the world, and is a Global-South led initiative to counter the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) and its neoliberal corporate agenda being held on September 23, 2021.

We, the people, maintain that UNFSS has been overtaken by the private interests of the corporates and elites. Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed, Executive Director at Roots for Equity, shed light on how the UNFSS platform is using neoliberal policies to reinforce corporate control over food and agriculture through propagating false solutions (e.g. food fortification, genetic modification, industrial meat production systems, monocultural food production) to climate change, hunger and malnutrition. It is clear that corporate-driven approaches are marginalizing, criminalizing and co-opting indigenous knowledge as well as eroding biodiversity through industrializing agriculture. The National Food Systems Summit Pakistan aims to counter the corporate-controlled narrative of UNFSS by amplifying people’s demands for genuine food systems transformation.

Through the panel sessions on land and environmental rights, women’s rights and collective rights over natural, genetic and productive resources, the National Summit highlighted the injustices that prevail in our current corporate-controlled, feudal-controlled food systems. In particular, Asif Khan and Chowdhry Aslam talked about issues of landlessness and corporate capture of genetic and productive resources. Roop Kanwal, a member of PKMT Youth Wing said that a critical issue remains the total control of land by a handful of feudal families in the country and absolute negation of women farmers’ rights, an overwhelming majority of whom are landless. Shaheen Maher said that women agriculture workers receive pittance for their backbreaking labour, especially working on export-driven crops such as cotton and sugarcane. Malik Aman, PKMT member from Manshera posited that environmental degradation by corporate-led systems are a discord to environmental justice.

Furthermore, the National Summit engaged farmers, including women, youth and landless farmers, trade union, academics, civil society and activists from various sectors in a series of workshops. As a contribution to the collective global response of peoples’ movements, participating farmers and activists formulated concrete demands and developed initial action plans for achieving food sovereignty through genuine agrarian reform, sustainable system change and a radical transformation of the world’s food systems.

Tahir Mehdi from Punjab Lok Sujag, Fozia Parveen from LUMS, Neelam Hussain from Simorgh Publications and Tahira Abdullah, a human rights defender, also raised key issues during their interventions in the panel sessions.

Demands:

Genuine agrarian reform and implementation of just, equitable and self-reliant sustainable food production and consumption systems that are based on small and landless farmers, including women farmers, ownership and control over land and other critical productive resources, access to safe and decent livelihood, and sustainable food production and consumption systems;

Women’s control over land and livestock as a key resource for protecting and promoting a healthy balanced life for women, their children and communities;

Recognition of the role that women and rural communities play in conserving plant and animal genetic resources, ensuring the continuity of biodiverse ecosystems and perpetuating agricultural practices rooted in traditional knowledge;

Promoting environmentally safe technologies that are controlled and owned by communities as the ultimate guardians of our environmental resources;

Prevent farmers’ evictions from indigenous land and ensure that no development work acts as a cover for further land grabbing or resource grabbing by corporations;

Ensuring that all farmers and indigenous populations retain their customary rights over commons/public lands, forests, water resources and other ecologies which is crucial sources of their life and livelihood;

An end to the stronghold of monopolistic agrochemical transnational corporations over global food production and distribution systems;

An end to trade liberalization through dismantling of institutions and mechanisms such as the WTO, and other inequitable bilateral and multilateral trade agreements such as the RCEP, CPTPP among other that allow the monopolization of global trade by TNCs;

Accountability of Transnational agribusinesses for the industrial fossil-fuel based industrial production to the imminent climate emergency vis-à-vis unchecked high levels of greenhouse gas emissions;

Immediate, state-led action towards outlawing toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers and reinstating sustainable agroecological/indigenous farming and livestock practices based on food sovereignty principles;

Ensure a robust public healthcare system that makes quality healthcare accessible to rural populations, including free testing services for Covid-19 as well as immediate provision of free and accessible vaccination;

Establish markets, led by small farmers, particularly women farmers;

Mobilize farmers and other sectors to form unions and associations that build and strengthen the movement against capitalist corporate hegemony of capitalist countries in food and agriculture.

Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek & Roots for Equity

Growing wheat in the hills of Pakistan

July 1, 2021

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) is an alliance of small and landless farmers in Pakistan. Formed in 2008, PKMT is active in 16 districts across three provinces of Pakistan: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh. PKMT offers a collective voice to small farmers advocating for seed and food sovereignty, and equitable land distribution in Pakistan.

According to the World Food Program, Pakistan is one of the main producers of wheat on the planet; the country exports more than one million tons of the grain every year. Yet, despite massive food production, national nutrition surveys estimate that around a third of Pakistan’s population suffers from food insecurity.

To curb food insecurity and increase public health and nutrition,  PKMT has taken the lead in collecting and regenerating traditional seeds. Its members maintain community seed banks, ensuring that locally adapted wheat, rice, corn and nutritious vegetable seed varieties that have been neglected since the Green Revolution are saved and exchanged among farmers. At the policy level, the organization has denounced Pakistan Amended Seed Act 2015, asking for seed laws that promote the rights of small farmers rather than agro-chemical corporations. PKMT filed a petition in Lahore High Court against this anti-farmer seed amended act.

With the Agroecology Fund’s support, PKMT is scaling up agroecology through its Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative, a network of farmers collaborating with researchers and students at the Nawaz Sharif Agriculture University, leading peer-to-peer educational programs on agroecological farming, and practicing agroecology on 18 cooperative farms in Shikarpur, Ghotki, Multan, Haripur and Dir.  Since 2020, the cooperative has been producing and marketing locally milled organic wheat flour.

However, as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers faced several production, transport, storage and marketing difficulties; these hardships were exacerbated by water scarcity, untimely rains, a locust outbreak, and a lack of availability of organic manure. Bakhtiyar Zeb, a wheat farmer and member of the Cooperative from Dir,  in the foothills of the Himalayas, shares his story with the Agroecology Fund.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? 

I, Bakhtiyar Zeb, have my own land and my family and I work on the land ourselves producing for our needs and some for the market. My father used to practice traditional agriculture, kept his own seeds, used oxen for ploughing and never used chemical fertilizers and pesticides. There was little or no expenditure related to agricultural production. The food we ate was nutritious. Life was simple, and did not have many of the material attractions that are part of our lives now.

When I started working on the land, I adopted modern agriculture practices and started using hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizer, and pesticide among others to get higher production. But gradually, I realized that this form of production was extremely costly and I could not save much. We were not able to get a good price for our produce in the market. Apart from this, the food produced was not nutritious anymore, and we found we were spending more money on medicines and going to the doctor. I also realized that we had become dependent on external inputs even for seeds; we were left at the mercy of corporations.  Even though I have my own agricultural land, I cannot decide for myself.  Then I decided to go back to my father’s practice. For the past 10 years I have been practicing traditional agriculture and agroecology; there may be less production but certainly less expenditure, as well. Above all, I am not dependent on any external input produced by corporations. I use my own seeds, my own cow dung as fertilizer. I am much more  satisfied now: at least I have nutritious chemical-free food for my family.

My land is on top of a hill and it’s difficult terrain. My sons and I have gradually increased our cultivable land through terrace farming; we have done this using our own hands. It’s not possible to get machinery in this area. We have a number of cows and goats. My wife, and other women in the family collect all the animal dung and add it to our water tank (constructed by the government, this tank collects rainwater) and it mixes with the water used for land irrigation. It is tough labor as going up and down the hills with not very good walkways is very hard. My sons, once they come back from school, help me in the fields. So it is very hard labor for my entire family but there are many benefits.

What drove you to finally move from conventional agriculture to agroecology? 

In 2010, I had sown hybrid maize on one acre. On another acre of land, I cultivated my own traditional maize seeds. I put the same amount of effort on both patches but the hybrid crop had a pest attack and the traditional crop was healthy with no pest attack. I also noticed that the hybrid seed needed more water than traditional seeds. The traditional maize was ready for harvest 10 days earlier than the hybrid maize. I sold the hybrid maize in the market because my family found traditional maize good for their own consumption. It is also good for our health as there is no chemical or pesticide used. If we care about our health and our family, we should not practice chemical agriculture.

Why is agroecology the right decision for you and your family? 

Most importantly, it provides nutritious food for my family. Apart from that, it is a low-cost agricultural production method. It is beneficial since most of the time we don’t have cash to buy inputs. This traditional form of agriculture does not need much cash as most of the inputs are our own.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work?

Days and weeks have been very difficult as my daughter and I were infected with COVID-19. It was a very painful experience. I had a terrible cough, fever, and body ache. My sleep was badly impacted and I could hardly sleep for 13 days. I was unable to taste food. Self-isolation was not easy and I only realized this when I had to go through it myself: I wanted to be able to see the skies and my land, my crops! Even when I recovered I was very weak, and could not walk or even sit. Both my parents are diabetic and suffer from high blood pressure; to keep them safe we sent them to another brother’s place. Even after coming out of quarantine I still have a bad cough.

Has this crisis changed your views on food security and food sovereignty?

Since I am a member of Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), I understand the importance of food security and food sovereignty.  But certainly, the idea of food sovereignty got sharp attention during the COVID-19 period. The self-sufficient communities who have control on their food production are in a better condition as far as food is concerned. It is expected that there will be huge food shortages in the coming months and years. We decided that we will not sell our wheat crop in the market and will save for the expected days of food shortage. PKMT is also planning to store as much as they can store so that it can be distributed to needy PKMT members, if needed. There is already a shortage of wheat flour in the market, and spikes in wheat prices, even just 1.5 months after the wheat harvest. The government has decided to import wheat to resolve the issue.

What kind of responses are important now, from communities and from policy makers?

Pakistan is an independent country but it is considered to be ruled by feudals and capitalists.  They are 2% of the total population of the country, but they rule and run the country.  The same people make policies for their own interests, with no safeguards for the marginalized people. The people need to stand up and raise their voice. Only organizing and mobilizing peasant labor can bring some kind of relief in our lives. In terms of practical strategies, as mentioned above PKMT members have decided they will store their food crops for communities in need during this crisis. There has also been a call to grow our own vegetables as much as possible. Since I started practicing agroecology, I have grown vegetables in small pots within the boundaries of my home. I will keep doing this.

“Building a Healthy Planet: Promoting Safe and Nutritious Food for All.”

Press Release; July 1, 2021

On July 1, 2021, Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity held a webinar to launch their joint campaign titled “Building a Healthy Planet: Promoting Safe and Nutritious Food for All.”

Mr. Tariq Mehmood provided an overview of the campaign with its objective of sensitizing small producers, consumers and society in general regarding the human and environmental cost of corporate-controlled and chemical-intensive industrial agricultural production and promoting the use of agroecology and food sovereignty as an antidote to corporate agriculture.

Dr. Azra Talat Sayeed from Roots for Equity highlighted the need for an alliance of progressive voices and platforms in urban and rural areas that can struggle for access to safe and nutritious food for all, especially in the face of a global crisis the Covid-19 pandemic. She highlighted the urgent need for solidarity amongst small producers, industrial workers, consumers, academics, women, youth and other actors in the struggle for food sovereignty. According to her, that was the most needful act as a way forward in the face of multiple social, economic and political factors that are impacting food production and consumption. She highlighted the numerous crises including food and economic crisis, environmental, health and climate among others. Dr Sayeed identified the role of corporate agriculture along with other imperialist institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other institutions that should be held accountable for the destruction of the environment and sharply rising global inequities, including rising hunger.

Shaheen Mahar, a PKMT member from Ghotki, highlighted women farmers’ immense, unparalleled labour and demanded immediate redressal for the injustices they face, especially their lack of access to food, let alone safe and nutritious food. In the face of Covid-19, women are facing acute hunger as well as lack of decent livelihood. She stressed the need for not only women’s right to land but implementation of land ownership for women farmers. She pointed out that the ongoing trade liberalization and corporatization of the dairy sector along with government-led crackdowns on the sale of raw milk are a direct threat to rural women’s livelihoods and their right to food sovereignty. Shaheen also elaborated on the gendered impact of chemical pesticide usage; since women agriculture workers are extensively involved in pesticide application, they face numerous health risks due to direct exposure to toxic pesticides.

Asif Khan, a farmer from Haripur and PKMT Steering Committee member stressed the need for self-reliance in food and agriculture production. He emphasized that unchecked industrial development, capitalist first-world countries and fossil-fuel driven corporate agriculture are responsible for environmental destruction, climate crisis and are a source of a high percentage of past and present emissions. Yet, it is small and landless farmers in third world countries, along with other marginalized groups, who disproportionately bear the brunt of climate change. Asif critiqued the inequitable nature of the world food system; despite having tenuous access and ownership rights to land and other productive resources, small farmers toil ceaselessly to produce most of the world’s food. He stressed the need for an alternate just and equitable food system as the basis for healthy, nutritious food production.

Mr. Zahoor Joya presented an outline of the scheduled activities for the campaign starting from today and continuing until October 16, 2021, culminating in programs to mark 15th and 16th October as the International Day for Rural Women, and World Food Day which PKMT and Roots for Equity mark as World Hunger Day.

Demands:

  • An end to poisonous agricultural inputs and an end to monopolistic control of TNCs in the food and agriculture sector;
  • Provision of food and agriculture laws that promote agroecological food production as a safe, viable & sustainable alternative to corporate agriculture;
  • Mobilization of peasant movements to fight for their right to self-reliance and self-determination in food production & distribution;
  • Promotion of healthy and nutritious cultural foods like local fruits and vegetables, milk, desi ghee, butter and lassi as opposed to mass-produced, processed foods devoid of nutrition
  • Repeal of detrimental neoliberal food and agriculture policies that impede farmers’ right to decent livelihood
  • Prioritize just, equitable and genuine land reforms that allow land redistribution to landless farmers (including women agriculture workers) along with control over all productive resources;
  • Farmers’ access to and control over reliable markets for agricultural and non-agricultural products
  • Small and landless farmers’ access to government credit schemes, government subsidies and social security benefits.

 Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) & Roots for Equity

بڑھتی ہوئی صنعتی زراعت اور زرعی زمینوں پر قبضہ: کسانوں کا لائحہ عمل

پریس ریلز

پاکستان کسان مزدور تحریک (پی کے ایم ٹی) ضلع شکارپور کا دوسرا ضلعی اجلاس بعنوان”صنعتی زراعت اور زرعی زمینوں پر قبضہ“ مورخہ20جون2021کومنعقدکیا گیا۔ جس میں ضلع بھرکے چھوٹے اور بے زمین کسان مزدوروں کی جانب سے شرکت کی گئی۔ اجلاس کی شروعات پی کے ایم ٹی کے ترانے سے کی گئی۔

0پی کے ایم ٹی کے رکن علی گل نے سرمایہ دارانہ زراعت کے کسانوں اور مزدوروں پر اثرات کے موضوع پر بتایا کہ ”پاکستان ایک زرعی ملک ہے جس کی 70 فیصد آبادی بلواسطہ یا بلا واسطہ زراعت سے وابستہ ہے۔ ہماری دیگرکئی اور ضروریات بھی کسی نا کسی طور اس شعبے سے ہی منسلک ہیں “۔ کسان ملک بھر میں کئی طرح کی فصلیں کاشت کرتے ہیں جس کی وجہ سے آج ہم دنیا کے صف اول کے ان دس ممالک میں شامل ہیں جہاں گندم، چاول، کپاس، گنا، مکئی، سبزیاں، گوشت، اور دودھ کی پیداواربھر پور طور سے ہو رہی ہے۔ لیکن پیداوار پر زیادہ تر اختیار مٹھی بھر سرمایہ داروں اور جاگیرداروں کے ہاتھ میں ہے۔ بیج سے لے کر کھاد اور دیگر زرعی مداخل کسان منڈی سے حاصل کرنے لگے اورساتھ ہی زمین کی تیاری، فصل کی کٹائی میں تھریشرکا بھی استعمال شروع ہوا جوکہ تمام تر ایندھن سے چلتی ہیں۔ جس کے نتیجے میں کسان اپنے دیسی اور روایتی بیج سے محروم ہوئے اور بے روز گاری میں بھی اضافے کاسبب بنا۔ ان تمام عوامل کی اہم وجہ صنعتی زراعت ہے جس کے نتیجہ میں ہماری روایتی کھیتی باڑی مصنوعی زراعت میں تبدیل ہوچکی ہے۔ صنعتی زراعت کی شروعات 1960 کی دہائی میں زرعی پالیسی یاسبز انقلاب کے نام سے ہوئی۔ہمارے کسانوں کو زیادہ پیداوار کی لالچ اور سبز خواب دکھائے گئے۔ غیر ملکی بیج اور کھاد بنانے والی کمپنیوں نے زیادہ پیداوار دینے والے بیج، کھاد، زہریلی ادویات اور جدید مشینیں متعارف کروائیں۔ جس پر مکمل اختیار سرمایہ داروں کے پاس تھا۔کسان اپنے دیسی اور روایتی بیج سے محروم ہوئے بلکہ بے روز گاری میں بھی اضافہ ہوا۔ غیر معیاری بیج کے آنے سے کسان نہ صرف بیج سے محروم ہوا بلکہ اس پر استعمال ہونے والے زہریلی اودیات اور کیمیائی کھاد کی وجہ سے کسان بیماریوں میں جکڑے گئے اور ماحول کی تباہی الگ سے ہوئی۔ فصلوں کی کٹائی کا زیادہ تر کام کسان عورتیں ہی سرانجام دیتی ہیں، لہذا ان کی ایک بڑی تعداد کو ان مشکلات کاسامنا ہے۔

ایک طرف ملک کی اکثریتی زرعی زمین چند خاندانوں کے قبضے میں ہے جبکہ دوسری جانب کسان منڈی کے محتاج ہو چکے ہیں۔ آج کے دور میں بڑھتی ہوئی مہنگائی اور عوام دشمن پالیسیوں کی وجہ سے کسان و مزدور بھوک، افلاس اور فاقوں کا شکار ہیں۔ یہ طبقہ گرمی، سردی، دھوپ کی پرواہ کیے بغیر ہمارے لیے کھانا اگاتے ہیں لیکن ان کے اپنے گھروں میں دو وقت کی روٹی بھی مشکل سے پوری ہوپاتی ہے۔ان تمام مسائل کا حل بے زمین کسانوں میں زمین کا مساویانہ بٹوارہ، بیج پر کسانوں کے مالکانہ حقوق کو تسلیم کرنا اور زرعی مداحل کو کسانوں کے اختیار میں دے کرہی کیا جا سکتا ہے۔

پی کے ایم ٹی کے رہنما حاکم گل کا کہنا تھا کہ” شکارپور تاریخی طور پر تجارت کے حوالے سے مشہور رہا ہے۔ ضلع کی کل آبادی تقریباََ 12لاکھ سے زیادہ ہے۔ گزشتہ کچھ سالوں سے نہ صرف شہر بلکہ دریائی علاقوں تک ہاؤسنگ اسکیموں کے نام سے زرعی زمینوں پر قبضہ کیا جارہا ہے۔کسانوں کو اپنی زرعی زمینیں جبراََبیچنے پر مجبور کیا جارہا ہے۔ اور اس کام میں سرکاری افسران، بڑے جاگیردار اور سرمایہ دارملوث ہیں“۔ زرعی زمینوں پر اگر پیٹرول پمپ، ہاؤسنگ سوسائٹی، ہوٹل بنا دیئے جائیں گے تو آنے والے وقت میں کسان اناج کہاں اگائیں گے؟
شکارپور میں ڈاکووں اور پولیس کے آئے دن مقابلے جاری ہیں۔ کیا واقعتا ڈاکو ہیں یا اصل معاملہ شکارپور میں جنگلات کی زمین پر قبضہ کرنا ہے؟ پولیس سرچ آپریشن کے نام پر تگانی جنگل میں گاؤں کے گاؤں خالی کروارہی ہے۔ درختوں کو کاٹا جارہا ہے اور آگ لگائی جارہی ہے تاکہ ڈاکوں کو پکڑنے میں آسانی ہو۔ حکومت کو اس معاملے پر سنجیدگی کا مظاہرہ کرتے ہوئے حقیقت کو منظر عام پر لانا چاہئیے۔

پی کے ایم ٹی کے رکن شوکت علی نے بتایا کہ ”پاکستان دودھ پیدا کرنے میں دنیا میں پانچویں نمبر پر ہے۔ اوردودھ ہماری خوراک کا ایک اہم جزو ہے۔جبکہ ضلع شکارپور میں چارہ کم ملنے کی وجہ سے دودھ کی پیداوار میں مسلسل کمی ہورہی ہے۔ دوسری جانب دودھ کے شعبے میں کمپنیوں کا کردار ہے جو ٹی وی اور اخبارات میں اشتہارات کے ذریعے سے یہ باور کرنے میں جتے ہوئے ہیں کہ کھلا دودھ انسانی صحت کے لیے مضر ہے۔ جانوروں کے لیے چارہ اگانے میں کسان عورتیں پیش پیش ہیں لیکن اصلمنافع دودھ کی کمپنیاں حاصل کر رہی ہیں۔
پاکستان کسان مزدور تحریک مطالبہ کرتی ہے کہ

۔ خوراک اور زراعت کے شعبے میں کمپنیوں کے قبضے سے نجات کے ساتھ زرعی قوانین پر پابندی لاگو کی جائے جو کہ چھوٹے اور بے زمین کسانوں کو نقصان پہنچا رہی ہیں۔
۔ کسانوں کے آبائی زمین سے بے دخلی پر مکمل پابندی عائدکی جائے۔ ترقیاتی کاموں کے بہانے زمین اور وسائل پر سرمایہ کاروں اور سرمایہ داروں کے قبضے کو فروغ دینا بند کیا جائے۔ ساتھ ہی ساتھ، مقامی اور قبائلی لوگوں کے جنگلات، شاملات اور دیگر قدرتی وسائل پر مقامی حقوق کو لازم کیا جائے۔
۔ منصفانہ زمینی بٹوارے کو یقنی بنایا جائے تاکہ بے زمین کسانوں اور زرعی مزدور عورتوں کو زمین اور خوراک کی خودمختاری یقینی ہو۔
۔ ڈیری اور لائیو سٹاک کے شعبے میں مقامی اور غیر ملکی نجی سرمایہ کاری کو ختم کریں اور ان پالیسیوں پر عمل درآمد کریں جو چھوٹے لائیوسٹاک اور دودھ پیدا کرنے والوں کے حق میں ہوں۔

جاری کردہ: پاکستان کسان مزدور تحریک؛

English Press Release

MILKING US DRY: PAKISTAN’S DAIRY SECTOR IN CRISIS (#PEASANTSRISEUP) 

For more than a decade, corporates have been advancing their control over Pakistan’s livestock and dairy sector which as of 2016 data, contributes to approximately 56% of the country’s agriculture sector GDP.
Trade agencies like the AUSAID and USAID have pledged their guidance and support for various dairy development programs, breed improvement programs and livestock management programs. While multinational companies like Nestle and Engro hold the monopoly in packaged milk products and have been campaigning against fresh milk, its biggest competitor is based in the informal retail market. While 93% of the consumers still buy fresh/raw milk, the Punjab Food Authority will strictly be implementing the Milk Pasteurization Law by 2022. Under this law, the sale of raw milk will be a criminal offence. But this concern to provide consumers with pure unadulterated or tested milk seems to be geared towards benefiting dairy corporations at the expense of the informal milk sector largely in the hands of small and landless farmers (as producers) and a very wide network of milk vendors spread across the country both in rural and urban areas.
These multinationals have also been employing the rhetoric of Creating Shared Value (CSV) by training farmers, carrying out capacity building at the household and community level and claims to empower rural women, while also introducing expensive, high-tech equipment in the sector and attracting sizeable foreign and local investments. By doing so, these corporations are effectively ousting small producers out of the highly competitive market.

This episode is co-presented by PAN Asia Pacific – PANAP, Roots For Equity and Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT)

‘Only land redistribution can address peasants’ problems’

KARACHI: Representatives of farmers and agricultural workers and non-governmental organisations working for their rights at a webinar organised on Monday asked the government to provide immediate and substantial economic relief through social protection initiatives and subsidies that reach all marginalised sectors, especially women.

They also called upon the government to ensure that pandemic-related actions do not affect the lives and livelihoods of small and landless farmers.

The webinar was jointly organised by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT), Roots for Equity and Asian Peasant Coalition in connection with International Day of the Landless.

Highlighting the plight of his community, Nabi Jan, a landless peasant from Garhi Bajaz village in Peshawar, said his community was facing acute hardships, including harassment and imprisonment, at the hand of feudal lords who were well-represented in the political leadership of Pakistan.

Tayyab-ur-Rahman, a small farmer from Mansehra, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spoke about the importance of farmers, communities asserting their customary rights over the ecologies they had nurtured and were an integral part of for many centuries.

“As part of the ‘land grab agenda’, government authorities are implementing measures that restrict local communities’ access to forest resources,” he noted.

Rehana Kausar, a woman farmer from Ghotki, demanded an end to feudalism, saying that land redistribution was the only way to address the concerns of landless peasants.

“In Sindh, feudal and patriarchal forces collude to keep land out of women’s hands and undervalue women’s agricultural labour, paying them much lower wages than men. Even in rare instances where women have land in their names, they are not allowed meaningful control over decisions regarding land use.”

The demands put forward by speakers included an end to neoliberal agricultural laws and corporate control of food and agriculture sector that disadvantages local farmers and initiatives that ensure that farmers were not displaced from indigenous land.

They also called for prioritising equitable and genuine land reforms that allow land redistribution to landless farmers, including women agriculture workers to ensure food security and food sovereignty for all farmers.

They also called for allocation of funds for the creation of a robust public healthcare system that makes quality healthcare accessible to rural populations, including free testing services for Covid-19 and quarantine and treatment facilities.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2021

https://www.dawn.com/news/1615549/only-land-redistribution-can-address-peasants-problems

End corporate control in food and agriculture! Fight for genuine land reform and rural development to truly transform the world’s food systems!

Day of the Landless 2021, Joint Statement

Today, Day of the Landless, we – farmers and peasants, poor farmhands, agricultural workers, contract farmers, Dalits, rural women and youth, and land reform advocates across Asia – vow to further our resolve in fighting against landlessness. Landlessness breeds social injustice, hunger, and impoverishment. Landlessness is a bane to farmers and all the people of the world.

Now more than ever, we are ready to link arms to assert our right to land and genuine land reform in our respective countries and across the region. We are determined to espouse and achieve rural development to transform the world’s food systems dominated by corporate monopolies. We will work hard for a better world wherein the majority of the population is unbound from hunger and exploitation.

We are uniting under the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) to call an end to corporate control in agriculture and food systems. It is unacceptable that farmers and food producers who feed nations do not have access to land and are food insecure as a result of land and resource grabs and of global monopolies in agricultural production and trade.

The COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged the world in 2020 further exposed the profit-oriented nature of global food systems as it drove millions of people into chronic hunger. By the end of 2019, at least 8.9 percent of the world’s population, or 690 million went hungry. By the start of 2020, hundreds of millions of people continue to suffer acute food insecurity as they face conflict, climate change, and economic crises of epic proportions.

As of October 2020, a staggering seven million people have died of hunger. Pandemic-related hunger also led to the deaths of 10,000 more children each month over the first year of the health crisis. Forecasts even warned about multiple famines in the coming months as the lowest-income households are most likely to face increased hunger. Strict lockdown policies and quarantines have affected all stages of food supply, resulting in a steep rise in food prices and widespread food insecurity.

Hunger and poverty of Asian peasants and sectors in agriculture are among the direct results of centuries-old landlessness. Large-scale land deals and acquisitions —  land grabs led by corporations have dispossessed and displaced farmers from the land they till. Millions of hectares of land planted with staples, grains, and other food crops, as well as indigenous lands, and public lands were land grabbed and converted into plantations, extractive mining projects, and farms devoted to export cash crops. Governments have become willing accomplices in these land grabs through public-private partnerships that take away land, water, and other natural resources from the people.

Profits keep pouring into the pockets of the few as the majority of peasants and their families endure worsening landlessness and land grabs amid a pandemic.

Farmers who assert land rights are faced with attacks either from local landlords, big corporations, and even government agencies. Peasant killings and other forms of brutalities against farmers happen on a daily basis.

In the past years, we have also witnessed the strengthening domination of corporations over the agriculture and food sector. We have seen mega-mergers and multi-billion deals between companies that have control over the seed market, agrochemicals, fertilizers, farm equipment and machineries, and the entire chain of food production. Conglomerates today have a tighter control of the world’s food production and distribution. They have made a profitable empire while trampling upon the lives and livelihoods of farming families and the rural people.

Deepening poverty ravages the world’s countryside as appropriate, indigenous, and collective knowledge and practices on agriculture are suppressed by agrochemical transnationals. Employing the most compassionate words and imageries, these monopolies violently impose their economic models over the peoples of the world for the singular purpose of maximizing profits. The toiling people of rural areas are increasingly cut off from their own countrymen as imported seeds, inputs, machines, and agricultural products deluge their local markets. At the same time, through coercion or force, peasants are increasingly “integrated” into the “global value chain” as cheap sources of raw materials and docile labor, and as captive dependent markets. As the people’s food sovereignty is continually undermined, there can be no genuine rural development.

Yet, even during the pandemic, we have seen the rising up of people’s movements to assert democratic and socio-economic rights. Mass protests and people’s strikes have swelled across countries. In Asia, the largest mobilizations we have seen in recent months are of India’s farmers, taking to the streets in hundreds of millions, to oppose and protest neoliberal agricultural laws that will make them more vulnerable to a few powerful corporations.

We are alarmed that ongoing efforts to address the rising global hunger and poverty through the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit will only end up in legitimizing and further advancing tighter imperialist control over food and agriculture. The overall direction that the preparations and discussions by those leading the UN Summit are leading towards the greater use of harmful and contentious technology like genetic engineering and digital agriculture. Solely motivated by maximum profits, these technologies are designed to consolidate and expand the presence and powers of big agribusiness in determining how the world should produce food.

In contrast, there are no meaningful discussions or even space to address the structural issues underlying hunger and poverty such as the landlessness and lack of effective control over the means of production by farmers and other rural sectors that directly produce the world’s food. Instead, the push in the UN Summit is to further expand monopoly capital and profits through greater liberalization, privatization, and deregulation that will drive hundreds of millions of farmers and rural people into more landlessness, bankruptcy, and impoverishment.

Thus, we call on the courageous peasant movements in Asia to organize and mobilize for our own people’s summit together with other marginalized and oppressed sectors that suffer the gravest hunger and poverty because of imperialist control and domination over the world’s food and agriculture. We must create our own spaces and assert our own voice in how a radical transformation of food and agricultural systems can and should take place.

We will actively support and lead the Global People’s Summit for Just, Equitable, Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems that would bring to the fore the peasant’s aspirations and struggles for land and genuine agrarian reform. For the people’s summit to truly make an impact, it must be built on an ever-growing and strengthening peasant and people’s movements on the ground fighting for systemic change that will pave the way for development that is truly for the people and truly sustainable.

Farmers and peasants can settle for nothing less than genuine land reform and rural development towards the true transformation of the world’s food systems. We recognize that the key to this transformation are solid people’s organizations and a global mass movement, the only real spring of change amid a decaying world order. #

PEASANTS DEMAND JUST AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF LAND!

Press Release ;29 March – Day of the Landless

March 29, 2021

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity joined hands with the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) to mark March 29, 2021 as the Day of the Landless. In this regard, a webinar was held to highlight the urgent need for genuine agrarian reform and rural development that restores farmers’ rights over land and other critical productive resources through implementing genuine land reforms as well as by putting an end to the stronghold of monopolistic agrochemical transnational corporations over global food production and distribution systems.

Kasim Tirmizey spoke on the peasant struggles in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkwa in the colonial period. He emphasized that British colonialism deliberately created landlessness in the Indian sub-continent through social, historical and political processes. The British used land ownership as a reward system, awarding land to those tribes and castes who were loyal and supportive of the British imperialist agenda in the subcontinent. He elaborated on the various peasant movements and struggles, including the Punjab Kisan Saba that had resisted colonial control over land, and the vicious wrath of the British punishing those who resisted not only colonial land ownership but new forms of social contract created between the landlords and tenants. No doubt, extending private property ownership and formalizing land tenure resulted in overwhelming power and prestige to their pawns, the British are responsible for creating the exploitative tenant-landlord relationships that are characteristic of present day feudalism in the subcontinent. Kasim ended by emphasizing the critical need for strong peasant movements to overcome the exploitative forces of today. That is the lesson that is to be learnt from the past peasant movements of our ancestors from this soil! Continue reading

زمین سے محروم کسانوں کا نعرہ: زمین کا منصفانہ اور مساویانہ ہو بٹوارہ

  بے زمینوں کا عالمی دن

 پریس ریلیز

March 29, 2021

پاکستان کسان مزدور تحریک (پی کے ایم ٹی) اور روٹس فار ایکوٹی نے ایشین پیزنٹ کولیشن (اے پی سی) کے اشتراک سے 29 مارچ، 2021 کو بے زمینوں کا دن منایا۔ اس حوالے سے ایک وبینار کا اہتمام کیا گیا جس میں کسانوں کا زمین اور دیگر اہم پیداواری وسائل پر حق کو منوانے کے لیے زرعی کیمیائی بین الاقوامی کمپنیوں کی اجارہ داری کے خاتمہ کے ذریعہ خوارک کے عالمی پیداوار اور تقسیم کے نظام میں فوری زرعی اصلاحات اور دیہی ترقی کی شدید اہمیت کو باور کرایا گیا۔

قاسم ترمذی نے نوآبادیاتی دور میں پنجاب اور خیبرپختونخوا میں کسانوں کی جدوجہد پر بات کی۔ انہوں نے اس بات پر زور دیا کہ برطانوی سامراج نے برصغیر میں جان بوجھ کر سماجی، تاریخی اور سیاسی عمل کے ذریعہ بے زمینی پیدا کی۔ برطانوی سامراج نے زمینی ملکیت کو انعام کے نظام کے طور پر استعمال کیا۔ ان قبیلوں اور ذاتوں کو زمین دی گئیں جو برصغیر میں انگریز کے سامراجی ایجنڈے کے لیے مددگار ثابت ہوئے۔ انہوں نے کسانوں کی مختلف تحریکوں اور جدوجہد کے بارے میں تفصیل سے بتایا، جن میں پنجاب کسان سبھا بھی شامل ہے، جس نے زمین پر نوآبادیاتی قبضہ کے خلاف مزاہمت کی اور انگریزوں کے خوفناک ظلم کا شکار ہوئے۔ اس ظلم کا شکار نہ صرف وہ ہوئے جو نوآبادیاتی قبضہ کے خلاف مزاہمت کررہے تھے بلکہ وہ بھی جو جاگیرداروں اور کسانوں کے بیچ نئے سماجی رشتے کے خلاف جدوجہد میں مصروف تھے۔ اس میں کوئی شک نہیں کہ نجی ملکیت میں توسیع اور کسانوں اور جاگیردار کے مابین رشتہ کو باضابطہ بنانے کے نتیجہ میں انگریز سامراج کے حواریوں کو زبردست طاقت اور عزت ملی۔ برطانوی سامراج نے کسان اور جاگیردار کے مابین مزارعہ/ ہاری اور جاگیردار کا استحصالی رشتہ پیدا کیا جو برصغیر میں موجودہ جاگیرداری اس کی ایک شکل ہے۔ آخر میں انہوں نے زور دیا کہ آج کی استحصالی قوتوں پر قابو پانے کے لیے کسانوں کی پر زور تحریک وقت کی اہم ترین ضرورت ہے۔ ماضی کی کسان تحریکیں ہمارے باپ دادا کے دور سے ملا ہوا ایک سبق ہے۔ Continue reading

Intellectual property rights over plants and seeds opposed

Our Correspondent; February 12, 2021

Leaders of the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity on Wednesday criticised the Ministry of National Food Security and Research’s recent decision to start the registration process for granting intellectual property rights (IPRs) for plants and seeds under the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016 and said that the act would take away farmers’ centuries-old traditional rights of saving and selling seeds.

Roots for Equity’s chairperson Dr Azra Sayeed and PKMT leaders Raja Mujeeb and Asif Khan, while addressing a press conference at the Karachi Press Club, said that as a result of national and transnational seed corporations claiming intellectual property rights over seeds, not only would the country become dependent on corporations for national food security and food sovereignty, but the royalties paid to transnational corporations for IPRs would massively increase seed prices.

They said that it is a criminal act and goes against the ethical dictates of society. They claimed that the implementation of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, like the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015, is dictated by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual property rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

The registration process is due to start on February 15. The agreement makes it mandatory for the government to provide intellectual property rights (IPRs) on new varieties of plants and seeds, they said.

“Essentially, the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act provides monopolistic control to IPR holders of the new varieties of plants or seed by prohibiting their use and sale to all others without permission,” said Sayeed.

“The Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 2016, just like the intellectual property rights laws, is delivered through an ‘effective’ sui generis system, patents or a combination of both and provides mechanisms for owners holding intellectual property rights over plants and seeds to seek legal protection for their ownership of plant varieties in each country where they want commercial use of the variety.”

She said that is granted through Plant Breeders’ Rights laws, and the WTO, particularly TRIPS, is thus the biggest imperialist weapon in agricultural production. “Seeds are living organisms and through genetic modification, transnational corporations are commodifying nature and seeking intellectual property rights to gain control of the seed sector,” she said.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/788820-intellectual-property-rights-over-plants-and-seeds-opposed