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.
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